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Album Review: Young Fathers – Dead

Having seen super hot electronic pioneers Numbers, Hudson Mohawke and Sega Bodega plucked out of the depths Glasgow over the last few years, Edinburgh is clearly putting up a fight not to be left behind, with Young Fathers’ brand of left-field hip-hop being thrown into the new Scottish mix.

Previous outings—Tapes and Tapes 2, for example—gave us a heads up that the band were on their way, along with a handful of thundering performances at the back of small venues up and down the country; but nothing can quite prepare you for Dead.

Released via LA-based imprint Anticon, and being anything but cold and over, it’s a murky mix of urban aggression and global influence, as the trio of Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and G Hastings collectively draw from their diverse backgrounds. Pop definitely plays its part alongside the varied flavours of Liberia, Nigeria and Edinburgh mega-estate Drylaw, which are played out over a crash course in alternative hip-hop.

Subtly woven together to create something unique and varied, what you’re left with is a genre-defying, full-throttle approach to an LP that is both formidable and politically topical towards conflict and strife.

Opener ‘No Way’ is a good example of their talent for combining urbanised rap beats with chants and brash electronic soundscapes; repetitions of “AK-47 sent my brethren straight to heaven” giving the track a darker, deeper meaning that resonates in every chorus.

One thing that Young Fathers do unexpectedly well is boy band style intros with a twist, as demonstrated on ‘Low.’ What borders on soulful pop slowly actually evolves into a much darker beast, as the grittier production transports it far away from anything so commercial as it initially hinted at.

‘Just Another Bullet’ and ‘War’ are where the band give their honest observations on what is wrong with the world, as they draw on the unrest around them. Stark nuances of war and destruction are presented and spat over simple but effective beats for consideration.

There is a sudden burst of energy when it comes to the new single ‘Get Up,’ where a lighter bouncier sound creates a likely crowd pleaser. Playful beats and well-timed breakdowns perfectly accompany harmonised calls of “get up and have a party” surely designed to make even the most reserved listener tap in time.

‘Dip’ expresses flashes of calculated aggression in true hip-hop style along with stripped back moments of reflection, while ‘Paying’ returns again to a more soulful place and is completely in contrast to the echoey chaos that is ‘MMMH MMMH.’

A resonating and eerie reminder of the band’s ability to explore the darker side of their sound, the sinister electronics give it an edge as steady flows and distorted sounds layer over each other. ‘Hangman’ continues the ominous theme with its chilling reiterations of the fact it’s “time to meet your maker,” repeated to the point of tension. Some excellent harmonies do give relief but it’s not for the faint hearted.

The frequent bouncing between styles and sounds may sound incoherent, but on Dead Young Fathers have succeeded in finding middle ground and a meeting of minds where it all manages to make sense.

-Sarah Joy

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