Drake did the hip-hop world a disservice when he bequeathed UK-grime artist Skepta the solo cut “Skepta Interlude” in 2017. Track 10 on his More Life playlist, the cut was the United States’ formal introduction to the oft-heard, seldom respected sounds of grime, the preeminent focal point in British hip-hop.
Grime has taken off in recent years – artists like Wiley and Skepta have earned international acclaim after modest beginnings in the mid-aughts, while Bugzy Malone was a centerpiece in the 2019 action-comedy The Gentleman. The genre has become synonymous with British rap, despite the latter being an umbrella term, featuring a substantial scene that plays right at home next to hip-hop’s New York roots.
Rapper Phoenix da Icefire and producer Husky Brown look to change the status quo of the UK scene with their joint album Panacea. Released on May 5 by New Dawn Records, the album is a multipurpose, multifaceted approach to hip hop, undermining not only the conventionally accepted UK sound, but also the expectations of rappers amidst a burgeoning coronavirus crisis.
As artists continually react to the pandemic, hosting home-based concerts, or pushing up their album release dates to accommodate entertainment starved fans, Phoenix and Brown engage with a similarly reactive energy, empowering listeners to take ownership of their lives while they can.
“One day you’re gonna wake up, and there won’t be any time to do the things you’ve always wanted/ Do them now,” Phoenix interrupts partway through “Shake Things Up.” The pandemic has led many to wile their days away online – once carefully denoted calendars have quickly unfurled into monthly quadrants simply labeled “Today.”
But Panacea is more than a timely attempt to capitalize off a raging health crisis. Over the album’s 52-minute run time, Phoenix and Brown are offering up a concentrated serum of hip-hop nostalgia. Brown’s kick drums and strolling samples engage his take on New York’s low-lying hip-hop swagger, providing a welcomed variety of boom bap cuts along with soulful jams like “Don’t Doubt Yourself” and “Life is Magic.”
Phoenix’s aptitude for navigating Brown’s cinematic samples isn’t a new-found talent. For the better part of the last decade he’s been rubbing shoulders with authentic, New York talent. His 2016 album, The Quantum Leap enlisted the help of Long Island native Keith Murry, while his 2017 single “Do My Ting” bopped with Brooklyn energy from a Cormega feature.
Despite its localized influences, Panacea is squarely focused on a worldly agenda. Bars on “Veganite” and “The Humans are Coming” detail the duo’s loss of faith in Earth’s inhabitants, pillaging natural resources until reserves run dry. “As we invest in destruction, corruption is rife” Phoenix cries on “The Humans are Coming,” backed by Brown’s chaotic mix of overlapping beats.
The environmental reset that is taking place amidst the COVID-19 catastrophe couldn’t be better timed to coincide with the call to action on Panacea. Whether by coincidence or concerted effort, Phoenix and Brown see a remedy for the man-made ills of society.
Panacea is now available on all streaming platforms.
Brother…. thank you for this review I’m touched and really appreciate the time you put into listening to the album and thank God you are at a level of innerstanding to know truth when you hear it, I wrote this over a year ago and practice shamanism working with ayahuasca…. a lot of what I’m talking about was channeled as I felt something coming… it simply fits because we pull on the collective consciousness and when we are receptive it always hits at the right time as the collective mind seeks to balance itself. In the track Cosmic soul I speak about my encounter with a ufo that came into my room thank God my mrs was there as my witness lol not that it’s needed lol, I think it’s time we all speak our truths without fear as reality is much more exciting than this small box everyone tries to fit themselves in and speak from. It would be my wish that everyone hears this and I also pray I’m in a position to be recognised so that I can redefine and shed the stigma placed on “Uk hip hop” I am fully capable of representing and would love to be given a chance to shine thank you for helping me do that LOVE AND GUIDANCE ALWAYS!!!!
I’m so glad I got the chance to listen. Fighting stigma and stereotyping is an ever-present challenge in so many fields. Keep speaking the truth!
I even have a comic book company tackling social issues http://www.sovereigncomics.co.uk I got another side with the whole commercial side I had comicon tell me what I got is the regeneration of comic books you will see soon on that though I’m working with the government on that and going in school
On topic to the subjects you cover music and basketball, the NBA said they wouldn’t accept my tracks as im not from America… hopefully one day that will change also
Damn, dude sorry to hear that! I don’t even know why that matters, since the NBA works internationally all the time. How does the music submission process to the league work?