When Public Enemy implored the world to “Fight the Power” they probably never dreamed they would go on to inspire hip hop about jaffa cakes. Nor would they have ever imagined such hip hop would be any good.
One of the by-products of a recent resurgence of interest in folk music (think Frank Turner or Mumford and Sons) has been the surfacing of a quaint, parochial type of folk centred around a vision of Englishness that harks back to simpler times, times when everyone lived in villages, ate only scones and wished each other cheerio at the end of the day. The irony of this, of course, is that Frank Turner’s music does a better job at making you hate England than most decent anti-patriotic tracts could ever do.
The better side of recent folk music has been when it has fused with elements of hip hop or rap. Enter the genre of “folk-hop”. Mike Skinner’s The Streets gave us a brief glimpse of how good this could be in their albums around 2003 to 2005.
Like Skinner, Bristol born rapper Dizraeli does not bombard us with his personal musings on the current political conjuncture. What he does do is allow the undertones of social commentary that are present in every song to paint a picture of what life as a young person today is really like.
In the video for “Never Mind” Dizraeli frantically runs around Brighton with a megaphone rapping through the various things in his life he hasn’t had time to do recently. He eventually sighs, “I need an aspirin, Bruv, I need a Saturday, I need a cup of tea to drink, possibly a jaffa cake”. A verse later, in a twist of lyrical genius, the humble jaffa cake comes to be rhymed with the quip, “I haven’t even had time to masturbate”. It is never made clear if the dearth of jaffa cakes and masturbation in Dizraeli’s life are related.
The award winning beat-boxer Bellatrix lilts over the chorus “Never mind, it doesn’t matter what you look like. All that matters is you dance ‘coz it’s a very, very short life”.
All of this comes amid the scratch of vinyl, orchestral violins, beat-boxing and melodies reminiscent of gypsy punkers Gogol Bordello. On his new album what he calls the “small gods” who accompany him on each track are usually more well-known than he is. Florence Welch, Joanna Newsom and Cerys Matthews all feature.
Most of Dizraeli’s work is subtle, nuanced and understated and it is here where his talent really lies. But for readers of Socialist Review who are more interested in his overtly political work the track Bomb Tesco might be a good place to start.
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