Sunday, 12 October 2014

REVIEW: Loki With Becci Wallace - G.I.M.P. - Government Issue Music Protest

Stream: Listen here for free on KILTR

Before I get into this review, it is perhaps useful to read my review/exclusive on Loki's precursor project to this one. Loki himself gives a lengthy mission statement on G.I.M.P., one that'll save me tedious paragraphs on what his intentions were for this record. Those of you that follow the Glaswegian, who is an emcee, activist and journalist, will be more than aware of his reputation for being hugely self-critical of his own work. So in that spirit, I decided to wait until after the referendum result to give my own review of this album.

Don't get me wrong, that may come across as a little fastidious since the best art should stand the test of time. However, given my own personal prejudices and views on the referendum, part of me was reluctant to commentate on a dystopian post-no future when my first listen was only a few days before the big result.

Quite naturally, listening to this album now after the result sparks a different reaction. Scotland voted no to independence, but Glasgow voted yes, and it is "New Glasgow" that provides the setting for Loki's somewhat severe vision of what Scotland could be in twenty years. Regardless of the real life result though, the album sparks an energy and motivational anger in the listener throughout. I mentioned the similarly named Lowkey's Soundtrack to the Struggle in my previous review, an overtly political album that struck a chord with a couple of years ago. Even with this album's futuristic concept, this album feels just as current as the aforementioned Lowkey record.

Both albums are combative yet inspirational works that seem intent on inspiring a generation. Rather than take on the role of moral arbiter however (something Lowkey had a habit of doing), Loki writes through a narrative style that encounters different attitudes/characters along the way. Though it is my personal opinion that 75 minutes is almost always too long for any music release (40-50 mins give more replay value), the tracks are designed in a way that you can pick and choose which aspect of the character you want to engage with.

That is not to say that the project isn't cohesive. Though the album sometimes deviates from the brilliantly apocalyptic tone set by the opening two tracks ('The End' and the title track), Loki makes use of a (mostly) English newscaster to tie the whole narrative together. Her frequent contextual information even comes across as comical at times, but maybe that's just me speaking with a Scottish sense of humour. Loki does make use of humour throughout though, with tracks like 'The Unimportance of Being Idle' parodying class divide by using "simple facts" to combat rhetoric.
Musically, this might also be Loki's strongest and most focused LP yet, especially considering the diversity in who he works with behind the boards. Several of the beats here ('Shut Up and Drive', 'The Ghost of Sage Francis', 'Best Friends') make use of strings or piano loops to convey a sense of reflection on Loki's more incisive societal observations. Other tunes ('Revo Max', 'The End', 'Porno') are frantic, heavy and more intense than we're perhaps used to hearing, but they give platform for him to showcase his ever-impressive rapping abilities. And Loki is still in a stylistic lane of his own when it comes to Scottish rap. For an album of such proportions, you could be forgiven for expecting pseudo-intellectualism and moralising. Instead, Loki sounds emotionally affected at points ('Friends Like You','Best Friends', 'The Ghost...'), and the vocal inflections and agitated flows he uses hammer this home. 

Maybe all that was to be expected, but Loki Okay, so G.I.M.P. is long, long-winded and it takes a long time to even digest. I am nevertheless proud that such a concept was attempted and well-executed by a Scottish MC. Maybe that is an attitude that has been in itself informed by feeling marginalised, a sentiment that Loki frequently addresses here, but this is still one of the best hip hop LP's I've heard from anywhere this year. To hear it in full, you need to go pre-order it here.

At this point I should also shout out the talented Becci Wallace who adds a lot of depth to what Loki does - please keep working together guys!