“We don’t know where we’re going but we sure make a lot of noise getting there!” – so goes the tongue-in-cheek opening to Rapping With Paul White, the gifted South Londoner’s first full-length vocal project. It’s another left turn after last year’s intriguing Paul White & The Purple Brain excursion into prog and psych-rock and deserves to establish its mastermind as one of the most versatile and individual producers working today.
Paul White first made his name with 2009’s instrumental opus The Strange Dreams of Paul White which led Diplo to declare “I’m his biggest fan” and The Independent to label him “a 21st century DJ Shadow”. While included in the ‘beats scene’ alongside Hudson Mohawke, Flying Lotus and others, Paul White’s hip-hop sensibility has always been at the forefront, which partly explains why his 2010 podcast for LA’s Stones Throw Records racked up 300,000 downloads in just a few weeks and alerted a new audience to the young Brit.
All this meant that assembling some of his favourite MCs was the easy part. Stones Throw artist Guilty Simpson appears twice, his grim warnings perfectly matching the sparse, brooding production on lead single Trust. Gap-toothed, mohawked Danny Brown is one of rap’s rising stars – a recent signing to A-Trak’s Fool’s Gold label, his lewd punchlines top White’s exuberant production on the not-safe-for-work One Of Life’s Pleasures. There’s humour in New Yorker Homeboy Sandman’s turn too, as one of hip-hop’s most likeable lyricists recounts his cultural missteps during a trip to London over a quintessential Paul White track.
It’s not all Americans on the mic: Jehst shows why he’s one of the UK’s most respected MCs on Indigo Glow, and One-Handed Music label mate Tranqill lays waste to Rotten Apples in the album’s grittiest moment. And how may hip-hop records feature a folk singer from Wigan, Nancy Elizabeth, laughing her way through a bizarre Edward Lear poem? There’s plenty for fans of Paul’s instrumental work too: from waltzing drum machines to medieval vocoders, the interludes are as compelling as the vocal tracks.
He might not “know where we’re going”, but with work commenced on projects with five of the artists featured here and a new live show in which he sings, plays keys, drums and drum machines alongside label mate Mo Kolours, it’s the “getting there” that’ll be worth watching…