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1 January, 1999@12:00 am

 Deservedly escaping the trip-hop kiss of death, London duo The Herbaliser churns out another impressive self produced album from the always eclectic Ninja Tune label (Coldcut, Kid Koala). Made up of DJ/producer Ollie Teeba and bassist/producer Jake Wherry, they represent hip-hop from a mix of soul, jazz and electronica.

Leading off the cuts featuring guest rhymers, What What of Natural Resource delivers two sure shot joints. “Mission Improbable” is a smooth tale of espionage told over a slow bassline and sharp, but gentle guitar strums. Equally laid back is “Let It Go”, where piano drops help describe what this female MC does when a situation gets out of control. Speaking of dope female MCs, Illadelphian Bahamadia holds court on “When I Shine”. And just when it seems these laid back joints are all that represent The Herbaliser, check for “Who’s The Realest”. This thumping cut is what a DJ track should be: head-nodding beats with precise and impressive scratching. The cuts are supplied by DJ Ollie Teeba, who flexes mightily on the wheels by asking “Who’s The Realest” via Fat Joe’s intimidating vocal samples.

Equally tight is “Road Of Many Signs” featuring the severely under-appreciated Dream Warriors, who get open over a lush vibe accented track with yet another slow, but funky Jake Wherry bassline. “Wall Crawling Giant Insect Breaks” is another standout jam giving sonic thanks to turntable pioneers and former pause tape masters everywhere. Coming to the record’s close, “The Missing Suitcase” is an instrumental cut that could easily find its way into a Hollywood flick during moments of heated action. The tune suggests that a film score should be next on The Herbaliser’s “to do” list.

Very Mercenary avoids trip-hop pitfalls by keeping it hype with a healthy helping of fat beats to go along with varied production styles. Dope MCs added to the mix result in these Londoners keeping it real–and realer than many

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