There’s no question rap music is in the midst of a major sea change. The jeans are getting tighter, the hoodies brighter. Gangsta is out, hipster is in, and those who don’t adapt are told they’re becoming obsolete. The fresh wave is young and ambitious, full of entrepreneurial spirit whilst spitting about SEGA and sneakers.
But away from the bum rush of hipster rap is a cleaner, more precise alternative.Throughout its reinventions, hip hop’s party trick has been its continued relevance as a medium for social and personal commentary, and it’s in this realm that 5 0’Clock Shadowboxers exist. This is soul-searing music, full of coiled aggression and biting humour. Shadowboxers’ rapper, Zilla Rocca, will laugh about the absurdity of it all one moment, and king hit you for not caring enough the next.
And he careens over some of the most carefully deployed sampology this side of a RJD2 record. Blurry Drones has grafted enough vinyl ammunition for three rap records and then crammed it all onto one. But this isn’t scattershot producing – throwing licks until one sticks – it’s precision work, carefully folded together for maximum effect. This is hip hop front-end loaded with killer instinct and a desperate perspiration. 5 O’Clock Shadowboxers are trapped in the dark corners of soul and society, and have just offered you a front row ticket as they fight their way out. – Matt Shea