Tuesday, 8 October 2013

#176: Mikill Pane - Blame Miss Barclay

Despite being a fan of hip-hop and rap, my experience of writing about and reviewing it is fairly limited. It's with this in mind that I approach my review of the d├ębut full-length from Ed Sheeran championed rapper Mikill Pane, with caution. Blame Miss Barclay is 15 tracks of sun-soaked hip-pop that paints pictures of life in the country's capital through often upbeat and optimistic lyricism that's occasionally offset by an austere edge that manages to propel Pane just beyond the commercial pitfalls that befell the likes of Dizzee Rascal's later releases. As a result, this leaves an album that's got a raw, gritty candour about it whilst managing to maintain a commercial quality that will appeal to even the most fair-weather rap fans.

The eponymous 'Blame Miss Barclay' is a solid way in which to kick off proceedings; a rap/metal fusion that packs more than it's fair share of punch and is an ode to a high school teacher to whom Pane credits his love of language, something which becomes evident in later tracks. Conversely, following track 'Roll On' couldn't be more different. Produced by dubstep/grime ensemble True Tiger, the track is a laid back, blissed out dub that features the expected upstrokes and excellently integrated brass that make the track a true Summer beat whilst track three 'Summer in the City' continues the albums high quality and warm vibes even if again, it brings a completely different aesthetic to the table. A chilled out and upbeat affair that brings to mind tracks like Dizzee Rascal and Lily Allen's 'Wanna Be' though thankfully, not as cringey. It's also the first instance in which Pane's lyricism drops somewhat, though only with the occasional bar and never anything worth mentioning specifically.

Though the first few tracks on Blame Miss Barclay are upbeat, celebratory tracks with Pane's humour permeating each, it doesn't take long before his more serious side begins to show through; it's here that the true level of his lyricism begins to become more pronounced. Tracks such as 'No-one Gets Left Behind' or 'Rooftops' seem confessional rather than celebratory and it doesn't seem to matter whether the stories Pane spins are true or not, such is the calibre of his penmanship 'You Don't Know Me' in particular address racism in a narrative that comes across like a less violent Plan B.

It's the juxtaposition of upbeat joie de vivre and confessional yet universal angst that sets Blame Miss Barclay apart from other rappers at the moment but it's never going to a contender to less commercial social commentators such as Akala. That said the commercial viability of the record is obviously an intentional facet and one which will allow Mikill Pane to find fans across the board. Trite rhyme schemes such as one which revolves around beer will deter the most stringent of rap fans, who'll dismiss it as pop music whilst the flow and wordplay on tracks such as 'Dirty Rider' do enough justice to suggest that there's far more to Pane than his poppier elements/

Whilst it's not a perfect album, there's enough going on with Blame Miss Barclay to give it repeat listens were rap your thing. Clever wordplay and a solid flow is occasionally offset by more shakier elements such as easy rhymes or poor schemes but as a whole it's obvious that Pane enjoys what he's doing and he's clearly good at it. The choruses of certain songs seem as if they've had at least some input by the aforementioned Ed Sheeran which isn't strictly a bad thing when the verses they separate are as solid as they are. Definitely an album worth checking out particularly if you have an interest in groups like The Streets or The Mitchell Brothers, there's far worse you could be listening to out there.