Herbaliser ain’t nothing new to this, as the duo of Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba, with the help of numerous co-conspirators, have been putting it down for years. Helping jump off Ninja Tune as a label, the instrumentalist/occasional hip-hop beatmakers have released four albums with the label, each to critical acclaim. Their latest adventure, Take London, is arguably one of the group’s best yet.
Hosted by longtime collaborator Jean Grae (who’s been recording with them since she was known as What What), the number one femcee appears on four of the album’s tracks, setting it off from the get-go with “Nah Mean, Nah’m Sayin”, which subscribes to her usual goofy sense of humor and clever word play, as the Herbaliser provides a seemingly random array of horns as a backdrop. She quickly follows with “The Generals”, a brilliant “posse-cut parody” of sorts, which features Ms. Grae playing the parts of five different rappers, mimicking the styles of each Eminem, E-40, Mase, and others, into her own characters. Jean is not the only rap act on the album, however, as both Cappo and Roots Manuva deliver local Londontown flavor on both “Failure’s No Option” and “Lord Lord”, respectively.
But while Take London has it’s share of good enough hip-hop cuts, it really stands out more in the Herbaliser’s solo selections. While not trying to duplicate sounds of RJD2 or Shadow or anyone else, Herbaliser’s sound is all their own, and Take London has a concurrent theme running throughout. Playing like the soundtrack to a Guy Ritchie crime caper (or more aptly, any chapter in The Getaway video game series), Take London captures the dank fog of the London underworld beautifully on soulful, cinematic selections such as “Song For Mary”, “Kittynapper”, “Geddim”, and many others, which make up a great majority of the album’s sound. And just in case your afraid of it getting “too British”, there’s always west-coast b-boy jams like “Gadget Funk” and of course the hip-hop cuts to balance it out. Top notch stuff here, a solid listen from top to bottom.
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