Killamari, 2011, DD album, 34m 10s
Most people will remember a cheeky kid at school, one who can’t be reasoned with, but just continually mouths off in the most disgusting fashion, while giggling uncontrollably. Everyone wants to thump him, because he’s so annoying, but no-one ever does, because he’s actually really funny, although most people would never admit to being amused. That’s Grem!i da Muke. He raps, with a sometimes brutally funky flow, and has absolutely no idea of, or interest in, when his lyrics cross the line between dangerously funny and decidedly off colour. He’s a geordie (an English person from the area of Tyneside in the northeast of the country, in case you don’t know and have some kind of allergy to Wikipedia), which is a personality trait he shares with the authors of Viz magazine; if you’re not familiar with that august publication, go and educate yourself now. Grem!i da Muke will make it very clear for all Viz readers that there is a regional cast to that brand of humour…
So, obviously, do not expect any political correctness. In fact the language on this recording is considerably riper than that to be found in Viz, which is for sale in major retail outlets. Mr. da Muke’s lyrics do, however, remind me of Dad’s Army, and other similar works of British humour, in their combination of a genuine affection with ruthlessly clear-sighted satire. These lyrics celebrate the urban Northeast while they poke fun at it, just as they betray a massive love for hip-hop while ripping the piss out of its conventions. Most things need only the slightest of spin to be put on them before we see their lighter side, and Grem!i da Muke is a master bowler, lobbing verbal bombs at the listener with precisely the right degree and direction of spin to leave them gasping with laughter, and with amazement at the sheer audacity and unconcerned offensiveness of his approach.
This album collects a variety of live performances, two radio sessions and some proper audience baiting shows. The latter are predominantly accompanied by guitarists, sometimes acoustically tinkling, sometimes rocking out, and with tendency toward noise-rock style dissonance when there’s a solo. Although the radio cuts have a backing tape accompaniment they have a similar vibe to the other tracks; having listened to the studio album Skillage In The Village it’s clear that Grem!i da Muke can keep his flows a little tighter than they are here, but these recordings all have a raw edge that enhances both the craziness and the surprisingly frequent heartfelt moments.
Grem!i da Muke rarely stops taking the piss, and he’s always funny, but there’s more to this than comedy. ‘Arr Man’ takes on the trainspotting cliques that infest every style and scene (‘hands up if you would classify this as hip-hop’); ‘March of The Tinman’ is some kind of lament for the broken detritus of urban life, and directly addresses the difficulty of incorporating comedic elements into a broader artistic practice (‘comedy can cover but one of our tragic faces’). Not that I want to suggest this is some kind of heavy satirical opus: it’s pure entertainment, and when it’s funny it’s usually so-insanely-stupid-it’s-hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny. But there’s an intelligence at work here, and one that it’s rewarding to follow through the verbal twists and turns of this album.
Skillage In The Village is probably a better place to start for an introduction to Grem!i da Muke, but Live Sessions is worth grabbing at the same time, because in a way hearing these songs delivered in public makes it more obvious what the point of them is. I should warn you that there’s some pretty dodgy singing on some of these tracks, but that didn’t put me off at all; if you find it very hard to digest you can take it all as comedy anyway. This is a very enjoyable album, and further evidence of the little known underground goldmine of British hip-hop that Killamari continues to mine for our listening pleasure.