Rick Fury – Fist Of Fury (hip-hop)

Killamari 2012, DD and CD album, 1h 14m 1s

£5 (DD) £5.94 (CD)



I’m going to force myself to write this review without quoting the lyrics; there’s nothing necessarily wrong with quoting lyrics in a review, but with Rick Fury it’s too tempting a cop-out. When I find it hard to put my finger on the right words, his are so eloquent that it’s easier just to put them on my page, and stand back and admire them; but without the beat, the flow and the context it’s impossible to convey their impact, and you have access to his lyrics by following the link above. My job is to tell you what it sounds like, what it feels like to listen to it, and what I think it means. This music is the work of a prolific artist who has been honing his craft with care and dedication for a lot of years; it’s entertaining, and easy to take as such, but it has many layers of complexity and sophistication, which I shall attempt to peel back slightly and share with you.

Fist Of Fury’s beats are made of funk, soul, reggae, atmospheric piano phrases, drum machines, guitar samples, pitch shifted vocal refrains, all the usual ingredients. They are assembled like chinese puzzles of interlocking groove, from source materials selected with knowledge and taste. It’s not earth shattering stuff, but it is convincing, accomplished and tastefully idiomatic rather than generic. More to the point, the beats are catchy, funky and irresistible. The album is shot through with a seam of samples from martial arts movie soundtracks: dubbed dialogue has a particular feel to it, but in old kung-fu movies it has a uniquely pleasing combination of the epic and the ludicrous. And… what else is there on this record? Oh yeah, there’s some rapping.

Rick Fury’s guests are mostly in bombastic mood, but some are more reflective, and all give well turned performances of witty and effective lyrics. There are too many for me to get into name-checking them, although not as bewildering an array as is often to be found on hip-hop records. His own work combines a surefooted yet rhythmically delicate flow, with lyrics that move seamlessly from the tragic to the vulnerable to the cocky to the hilarious and back again in about as many words as I’ve used to describe the effect.

I would be at a loss to find a good musical comparison to the album, in terms of the experience of listening to it, but I’ve been re-watching The Sopranos recently, and a drama of that nature is not a bad parallel. There are not many other places I can recall encountering material that, rather than oscillating between humour and sincerity, moves the listener as it delivers belly laughs; this is clever, visceral writing that mines profound insights from an accumulation of superficial banter. Rick Fury paints a likeable picture of himself and his world that represents adversity without self-pity, and that is self-deprecating without false modesty.

Of course this isn’t just about lyrics, or even lyrics and flow, but about an intricate interplay between those things and the musical content, the samples and the atmosphere. The album slips by with an easy, casual diffidence, and it’s easy to miss exactly how much craft and sweat has gone into it; every element in use has had finely honed, particular meanings coaxed out of it through its precise relationship to every other element. That might make it sound calculated, and I guess it’s mostly been quite carefully considered, but in terms of the way it signifies it feels more instinctive to me; Rick Fury knows how to get his own truth recorded with enough sincerity to connect with all but the least attentive listeners. Those will probably be loving his double time skills though, unless they don’t even like hip-hop. It’s satisfying to review someone whose work started well, and gets noticeably better with every release.

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