Scor-Zay-Zee “Aeon: Peace To The Puzzle” (GangstaMusic)
Indeed, in the eleven long years since we described “Want What’s Yours” in our year-ends as “truly tender observation of the (a)cutest kind… a foil to the righteous anger of Scor's landmark Daily Telegraph-baiting P Brothers banger "Great Britain"” the only further outputs we managed to trace from the MC were two (admittedly blinding) tracks in 2008: a myspace leak called “Why I’m Here” and a star turn (“Voyage”) on the Elementz’ “Crushmode” LP. (Things he’s been doing instead of making new records, as it turns out, include: wrestling with mental health issues; converting to Islam; getting married and having kids; and starring in a movie alongside Olivia Colman and Paddy Considine).
So, after a total of about five songs this century, we’d have been deliriously happy with a new Scor-zay-zee EP. We certainly didn’t see this coming, even in our wildest dreams: after a mere 20 years on the mic, Scorz has dropped his debut album, a tour de force which yields 28 tracks over two discs and clocks in not too far short of two hours. Talk about feast following famine. 28 proper tracks, too (no skits or insts), and you’ll get a feel for the general calibre from the production credits (Nick Stez, DJ Fever, Juga-Naut, Mecca:83, P Brothers, the Elementz) and some of the guest MCs (Chester P, Cappo, Tragedy Khadafi, Ali Vegas). But let’s try to break it down a little.
“Double Dragon”, the joint with Chester (and the Elementz) is, obviously, *mint*, a shop window for two master rhymers in their absolute prime. Juga-Naut production “Live Free” nimbly showcases Scorz’s mellow truth-telling par excellence: politicised, but never agit-prop. DJ Fever anchors quite a few of the highlights, like sumptuously cascading opener “Intium” - pure bars, no gimmicks - and perhaps the album’s thematic cornerstone, the breezy “Love ‘Em All”. There are thrills (n’skills) as Juga, Caps and Vandal Savage join our genial host for the album’s posse cut, “R.A.F.” There’s a formidable stash of reminiscence raps, including “1995” (a tip of the hat to musical inspirations which settles into a brilliant “Outta Here”-type narrative groove), “Saturday”, “Remember” and the obligatory playground memories of “Old School”. There are club-friendly floor-destroyers of the sort Nottingham hasn’t seen since Styly Cee and Cappo loosed the H Bomb on us: “Equestrianism” (another DJ Fever production) and “I’m Not Bragging” (which reunites S with old comrades the P Bros, rocking the house in the spirit of the Brothers’ Mr 45 riddim, “Showstopper”). There’s Dom P’s “Flow Sicker” right at the end, a party vibe track offering up another free-flowing, freestyle Scorzilla treat. And, this being a tribute to the true essence of hip-hop, we shouldn’t forget the top-drawer cuts and scratches throughout, particularly from Jabba The Kut and from Fever.
Lyrically, all the themes we identified when we fell for “Why I’m Here” – “self-discovery, self-restraint, poverty, inspiration and coming good” - are still central, but that shouldn’t be taken as meaning this record is in any way preachy or po-faced. In fact, it’s always welcoming and inclusive. Scor-zay-zee’s renowned sense of humour shines through on songs like fast food-themed fantasy “Gangsta Wraps” (which also feeds into “1995”’s celebration of the nascent gangsta rap scene, seen through rapt teenage eyes). And the wordsmith supreme’s somewhat sparkling similes cover every conceivable reference point, from Captain Mainwaring to Johnny Metgod.
Other standout moments on these discs include “Ungodly Reason” (a welcome encore for the chipmunk-sampling vogue that proliferated a decade ago), the symphonic, string-drenched “Brain Tour”, the fizzing “Bone Stash”… actually, we risk mentioning everything on the album, don’t we? And we haven’t even got on to the more dramatic, introspective compositions yet: the patently cathartic “The Heart”; the coolly spiritual “Street Angel”; and perhaps boldest of all, “Heroes Never Die”, a fragile, subtly jazz-tinged ballad built in collaboration with singer/songwriter Daudi Matsiko. However, we do remain sufficiently in hock to the old school that we could live without the sung choruses that start to intrude more regularly over the second CD. As you know, sung choruses in hip-hop are the Devil’s work: a surefire way to turn gold to base metal, to transform searing soliloquy into plasticky pop fodder.
We’ve spun “Peace To The Puzzle” a fair few times now, and - sung hooks aside! - find ourselves pretty much blown away not just by the standard of the rhymes, but by the quality of the productions. That strength-in-depth means that right now, this has to be a contender for album of the year, and hopefully not just in the fantasy countdowns of blogs like this. Scor-zay-zee has found his voice again: maybe UK rap can, finally, do the same.