Friday, December 10, 2010

The Ruby Kid - Maps EP

When I reviewed The Ruby Kid's last effort, I remarked how: "It is intelligent AND heartfelt. It is of ‘the streets’ AND threatens to go beyond them. It commiserates in my troubles AND makes me glad to be alive." Well, the same goes for his Maps EP, though it's a very different beast to Winter In The City. That should be welcomed of course, as change is the only constant and all that.

Whereas WITC was recorded with a band - the Black Jacobins - Maps features a more conventional relationship between the emcee and his producer, Dan Angell. Daniel Randall (the Kid's real name) is perhaps less verbose/more straight-talking, throws fewer obscure references at the listener/is more accessible, and is much more reflective/less polemical than previously. 'Reflective' is often a byword for being self-absorbed, being a navel-gazer, and - worst of all - being 'emo'. But that could never be the case with The Ruby Kid, because he couldn't look inwards at himself without looking outwards at the wider world. That's the beauty of dialectical materialism, folks.

In some ways, it's ironic that The Ruby Kid has toned down his propagandising, right at the time when the class struggle is hotting up. But that's not to say there's no politics here; there's much more than you'll hear on almost any release this year. Opener All Hands On Deck begins with a sample from Matewan (a 1980s film about a miner rebellion in the US), before controversially but commonsensibly declaring that "We should live inside the palaces we lifted bricks to build", and urging "grand scale larceny/Expropriate the rich". Similarly, the wonderfully named Growing Up Is A Euphemism For Knowing Your Place is an anti-wage slavery anthem which features tour mate Al Baker, and the delightful lines "I'll work if I have to/But never with an ethic".
The Ruby Kid is repping those "on that next gen proletarian tip"
Other tracks - The Key, Hoxton Bounce - tackle the contradictions and paradoxes of the rap 'scene'. In the latter, Randall critiques the oh-so-edginess of North London posers ("Within the beating heart of every new idea you're drawn to/Is the remnants of a better one someone else had before you"). This hipper-than-thou-osity can't last much longer though, because "Battle lines get drawn" and "You will need to pick a side in that".

London features heavily on Maps, and Randall has probably spent a lot of time looking at them since his move to the capital a year ago. Like Hoxton Bounce and the title track, The Imagined Village also powerfully evokes the sense of a young man trying to find his place in the world, both geographically and socially.

Ends-Means is perhaps the standout track for me. An explosion of ideas around how we go about our "Charlie Darwin business" and survive in this world, it matches skillful delivery with some seriously scuzzy beats. Of course you know what the Kid's talking about when he says: "To say that it can't buy you love is mostly true enough/And having it won't make you happy/But it's tragic if you lack the stuff".

All in all, this is a superb album from a modest but extremely accomplished twenty-three year old poet. Maybe this isn't going to be the soundtrack to the struggles kicking off during this winter of such massive discontent, but it is definitely a great accompaniment. By repping those "on that next gen proletarian tip", The Ruby Kid will surely win many new fans with this material, in these times. To quote a work I'm sure he'd approve of, "true art is unable not to be revolutionary, not to aspire to a complete and radical reconstruction of society." Word.

The Ruby Kid can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. His official website is here. The Maps EP launch party is on Saturday 11th December, at Ryan's Bar, 181 Church Street, Stoke Newington, London. N16 0UL
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