Black Grass – Three

That’s right people, it is the return of Black Grass! Mex is back with his third album on Catskills, funnily enough titled… Three.

Out now on Catskills, Three is a tight and eclectic blend of sounds, ranging through broken beat to hip-hop to funk to latin and back again. The album features guests such as; J-Live, Dionne Charles (from Baby Charles) and Koaste. You’ll no doubt be delighted to know that Three is an early candidate as one of the albums of 2008 – what we have here is a collection of 13 tracks spanning multiple genres and styles, whilst maintaining a consistent vibe with a typical Black Grass feel. The hip-hop stylings are present and combine seamlessly with the apparent influences that make Black Grass the class act we’ve all come to expect.

The track Bass Man is the lead single from Three. The ragga beat and soulful groove will get those dancing feet moving for sure. Bass Man features vocals from Benjammin’ and I’m certain you’ll be hearing this across dance floors all summer long. It is out now on 12″, CDS and Digital Download – the b-side features the track Set It Straight feat. J-Live. Grab it now from the Catskills eShop.

Back to Three, here’s the tracklisting:

1. Alright
2. Without Your Love (feat. Dionne Charles)
3. Set It Straight (feat. J-Live)
4. Bass Man (feat. Benjammin’)
5. Splash The Cash (feat. Koaste)
6. Makin’ Emcees Run (feat. Aaron Phiri)
7. How Much Can You Take? (feat. Dionne Charles)
8. Quetzalcoatl Returns (feat. A Key and Cissy)
9. Hold Fire (feat. Dionne Charles)
10. This & That (feat. The Good People)
11. Bless (feat. Ruben Da Silva)
12. Stormy Weathers (feat. Jah Marnyah)
13. Away (feat. Rider Shafique)

Alright is a laid back summery hip-hop track that in a way reminded me of some classic Grand Central material, ala Aim, Rae & Christian or Fingathing. Then it’s straight into Without Your Love, a latin laden disco style breaks track. But then comes Dionne Charles’ rich vocals and they really take the track to the next level – the combination of Dionne’s soulful solace and the funky groove of Mex’s beats simultaneously remind me of a classic sound, whilst delivering a fresh aural experience. It’s tight.

J-Live features on the track Set It Straight, a hip-hop track with a very catchy guitar riff. Steadily flowing under said riff is a strong, yet steady, bassline, oh and of course a thumping beat. And J-Live? Need you ask? Sharp lyrics with a smooth flow, J-Live is on top of his game on this one.

Bass Man is the previously mentioned lead single from Three. Encompassing dub and ska elements, Mex enlisted the vocal skills of Benjammin’, and he provides a ridiculously soulful cypher. This is an uplifting and energetic tune that will storm dancefloors like armed police on a drug raid. Make sure you cop that 12!

My good man Koaste lends his talent on Splash The Cash. Koaste lays down some of the sharpest and most witty lines you’re likely to hear come out of the UK this year. Catch him touring with the Black Grass live show. Next up is Makin’ Emcees Run featuring Aaron Phiri, another talented emcee. This is one catchy uptempo hip-hop track, another one for the dancefloor surely.

Dionne Charles returns on How Much Can You Take? Currently one of my favourite tracks from the album. I’m a sucker for funk and I’m a huge Baby Charles fan anyway. Dionne’s voice is both raw and sweet and fits perfectly with the funky break Mex has created, this is a tight track with a strong focus on rhythm, organ and horns – perfect. Quetzalcoatl Returns is an hispanic sounding downtempo breaks track. It’s quite cinematic in its execution and displays essences of such contemporaries as Wax Tailor, Aim and perhaps even Quantic to an extent. It’s beautiful, with its exquisite strings and Saharan sounds – multiple influences and inspirations spliced to create a strong instrumental composition.

mp3: Black Grass – Quetzalcoatl Returns

Hold Fire sees Dionne Charles’ third and final appearance on Three. A soulful, steady funk track with a killer bassline. The combination of Dionne’s hook and the ultra catchy horn stabs makes for an addictive chorus in what is yet another laid back dancefloor filler for Black Grass. Straight after is This & That featuring The Good People, an American hip-hop outfit hitting just as hard as the other cypheric masters heard thus far. Keeping with the laid back jazzy breaks hip-hop style, it goes down as easy as a cold beverage on a hot summers’ day.

The tail end of Three begins with a melodic Balearic beauty in the form of Bless featuring Ruben Da Silva. With slight carnival tones and sugar sweet vocals, this is definitely one to chill to. But don’t get too comfortable, the penultimate track is the ragga tune Stormy Weathers featuring Jah Marnyah. Dutty reggae verses accompanied by a slick reggae chorus laid smack bang on top of a monster beat. The final track is Away, a dubbed out hip-hop track featuring Rider Shafique. This Rider Shafique dude lies somewhere between Roots Manuva and Jahmali – his delivery is both distinct and concise, smooth and sharp. The blend of guitar stabs and eerie organs over a steady beat give a perfect outro scenario of the chilled persuasion.

I mentioned at the start of this review that Three was an eclectic blend of sounds, but ultimately what is apparent, after giving Three a good listening to, is the stylistic consistency that it presents. It is one thing to attempt to appeal to a wide spectrum of listeners and to feature multiple guests, but another to stamp your creation with a unique watermark. Despite the efforts of those that came before Black Grass with the aim of reaching a larger audience, not many have actually hit the target with such accuracy. Three commands the listener blissfully through 51 minutes of laid back hip-hop’esque sounds with some of the tightest production you are likely to hear this year. A few listens of Three will turn your summer up to 11, because this one goes up to 11, it’s got 1 more.

Upcoming live dates:

Jun 5 2008 – Oxford Arts Factory – Sydney, New South Wales
Jun 7 2008 – We Love Sounds Festival – Melbourne, Victoria
Jun 8 2008 – We Love Sounds Festival – Sydney, New South Wales
Jun 9 2008 – We Love Sounds Festival – Brisbane, Queensland
Jul 4 2008 – Boarding Pass Festival – Greece
Jul 10 2008 – Powder Rooms – Barcelona, Spain
Aug 3 2008 – The Ivy – Glasgow, Scotland
Aug 23 2008 – Beachdown Festival – Brighton, London and South East
Aug 31 2008 – Jersey Live Music Festival – Jersey, Channel Islands