Since its inception in the 70’s South Bronx, hip-hop has evolved and wandered all over the musical landscape, affecting and infection, borrowing and building, changing and challenging as it goes and spawning all manner of sub-genres, sounds and styles. What is great about VA Streetz in general and 80’s Baby in particular, is that it puts the one thing on a pedestal that those early pioneers were so concerned with – dexterous wordplay and lyrical prowess.
Not everything that has grown on the hip-hop family tree has remembered what is really at the heart of its sound and as it fused with the likes of R&B, pop and even rock, as it spawned the likes of rap, trap and a number of other musical subcultures, that wit, wisdom and wordplay has often been lost along the way, sacrificed for ideas of accessibility and inclusion.
But hip-hop has never been about life in a comfortable, mainstream world and lyrically 80’s Baby reflects this, painting pictures of the struggle of life on the real streets (as opposed to those that rich rappers often talk about it yet have rarely experienced or, if they have, barely remember) and doing so through fast and finessed wordplay, street hard depictions and poetic descriptions of life, of the hustle and the hassle, the edge and the game.
The title track kicks things off and sets the scene perfectly, with a balance of percussion and poetry, beats and modern beat generation attitude, hard groove and gritty grace. And from this opening salvo, things move out, around and through the street life experiences of the narrator.
Foreign Wipes Out The Projects is a trip-hop anthem par excellence slow, engaging, beguiling and cool, running on a pulsing bass beat and strange ambient electronica and placing the vocals exactly where they should be, centre stage and in the limelight. Highly Elevate follows a busier groove and Young King wraps itself in neo-soul sweetness but never loses its edge.
80’s Baby is a fascinating concept. It keeps the seventies traditions of the emerging sound alive, echoes with the punch and power of the genre’s early 90’s golden age and yet never feels like anything other than an album for and about the here-and-now. In its groove and beats, you can hear the past but it feels like music of the present whilst simultaneously beating a path to a bright new musical future. How cool is that?