Review : Professor Green - At Your Inconvenience
BbcYou have to feel sorry for British hip hop. For 20 years it was the runt of pop’s litter, ignored by the mainstream and considered too inauthentic by fans of American rap. Then Dizzee Rascal has a number one and the singles chart and British teen culture becomes entirely dominated by pop-friendly London MCs… at the exact point when everybody stops actually buying music.
This perhaps explains records like this second album from Hackney’s Stephen Manderson aka Professor Green. After winning an avalanche of freestyle rap battles and surviving a false start with Mike Skinner’s ill-fated The Beats label, 27-year-old Green struck pop-rap gold in 2010 with his Alive Till I’m Dead album and the Lily Allen-bolstered Just Be Good to Green single. There have also been tragedies and traumas – the suicide of his father, a friend’s death by heroin, a 2010 attack with a bottle at Cargo in Shoreditch that saw his assailant sentenced to jail time.
So, when he asks rhetorically, on the opening title-track of the follow-up: "Why would I make dance music / When I can’t dance to it?" before declaring, "I’m the antidote to that s***", and you’re nodding along approvingly to the low-slung, squelchy G-funk adorned with fuzz guitar and rude bursts of synth, you want to take the man at his word. Then you notice the presence of a bland drum‘n’bass track (Trouble), a dodgy trance-meets-breakbeat tune (Remedy) and the now-obligatory Dubstep One (How Many Moons). And you are, frankly, bemused and, increasingly, very, very bored.
Of course, one person’s ‘eclecticism’ is inevitably another person’s ‘throwing any currently marketable material at the wall to see if it sticks’. At Your Inconvenience is dominated not by club bangers but incredibly maudlin rap ballads full of banal piano lines, anonymously cutesy-pie female vocalists and choruses that scream, "Please let me on The X Factor… I promise I won’t swear!" The award for most soul-sucking moment becomes an arm-wrestle between Spinning Out, which thinks it ‘samples’ Where Is My Mind? by Pixies but actually covers it in cruise-ship style and then chucks a pointless rap at it, and the closing Into the Ground, which attempts to reclaim Green’s hip hop cred by unleashing a barrage of witless misogynist abuse. Green apparently sees no hypocrisy in including this track after the dire schmaltz that is Astronaut, a song about a rape victim who becomes a junkie and commits suicide....full text
GuardianGreen's commercially successful debut Alive Till I'm Dead wasn't without its more pensive narratives, and it's in this direction that Hackney battle-rapper-cum-popstar takes his followup. There's the same assortment of polished urban pop beats and the same famous borrow, this time a not unlikable lift from the Pixies' Where Is My Mind?, but Green abandons the cheeky self-deprecating humour and witty braggadocio of his earlier hit singles for unconcealed angst, chewing at his turbulent past and bemoaning the pressures of fame. The introspection pays off on tracks such as Forever Falling, but lead single Read All About It feels cloying. It's also difficult to reconcile Green's more crass verses with his sentimental numbers; Astronaut's tale of innocent rape victim turned junkie sits uncomfortably next to all the phallus jokes and Eminem-style sadism of songs such as Into the Ground. It's a heavy, ambivalent confessional, but Green's precocious personality and distinctive flow manage to keep it fired up....full text
NmeIt’s easy to understand the appeal of Professor Green, the gobby class clown who’s always disrupting lessons with a crude comment. Problem is, he could really do with some fresher jokes, and his second album doesn’t exactly put its best wit forward. The title track, in the tradition of Eminem’s ‘Without Me’, finds Green’s voice sounding more goblin-like than ever, drawing a cock on the blank page of propriety with lines like “Soon as I finished calling this bulimic a fat bitch” and “I just had a shit and now I can’t find any loo roll”. The crunkish lurch of ‘DPMO’ adopts a similarly tiresome tack, but as disses go, “maybe I’ll cover my naked body in sticky tape and run through All Saints and come out doing my JLS impression” is hardly a keeper.
As well as Prankster Green, though, there’s a newly neurotic and confessional, Kid Cudi-ish side, struggling with self-worth. Given its subject matter, ‘Read All About It’, a cathartic, ‘Love The Way You Lie’ epic analysis of tabloid intrusion and his father’s suicide, can hardly help but be powerful. Less compelling are the likes of ‘Doll’, ‘Today I Cried’ and ‘Spinning Out’, Green’s reworking of Pixies’ ‘Where Is My Mind’. No matter how disorientating sudden fame and the promotional whirl definitely are, they just don’t make for an interesting listen, as Green’s painfully aware of as he protests on ‘Doll’, “It wasn’t money that changed me, it was lack of sleep… I still have good days and bad days… my good days are probably better than yours though”. On ‘Today I Cried’ he begins “so sick and tired of this bullshit”, over mournful acoustic strums and a slow-clap beat. He’s talking about his pre-fame life, but the new one aint much better. “Sick of hearing how happy I should be… I just don’t know how to be”. He sounds tired, narky, depressed and frankly, like he needs a good sleep, a bowl of soup and a hug.
He’s a lot better when he’s not struggling so hard; effortless and cheeky sit a lot better on him than fractious and sorry-for-himself. The fresh-faced electro-dance of ‘Remedy’ is pretty brilliant, as is the no-flies-on-me drum’n’bass pop of ‘Trouble’. And while ‘Avalon’, basically his take on BoB and Hayley Williams’ ‘Airplanes’ with Sierra Kusterbeck of Florida emo-rockers VersaEmerge in the Hayley role, is a little shlocky, you can’t deny it’s anthemic....full text
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