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Friday, 10 August, 2001, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
British hip hop renaissance
Word Lab 2 album cover
A renaissance for UK hip hop?
By BBC News Online's Barney Rowntree

Hip hop music in the UK has dwelled for too long on the reasons why it can't make the grade.

The quality of UK hip hop compilations has been dubious at times, often lingering on the verges of quality but not quite getting there.

Word Lab 2 is set to break that mould. Compiled by Wordplay's head honcho, Dr Laub, it fuses the new and old, mixing the rising reputation of artists such as Karl Hinds with that of veteran Shortee Blitz.

Karl Hinds

The first Word Lab compilation featured relative unknowns Mark B and Blade, who went on to storm up the charts and cast aside their street reputation for the glory of Top of the Pops.

Highlighting the cream of domestic hip hop, Word Lab 2's most notable tracks come from Styly Cee, Estelle and DJ Plus One and Killa Kela.

Each track has its own distinction and direction, holding down its own particular style.

Satisfying

Free the Walls by Braintax and Mystro sets the promising tone, guiding us through life as Braintax sees it.

Extremists and Skeme, two brothers who have left their mark on south London, spit out lyrics and home grown feelings throughout their track Fire Blaze and create one of the best tracks of the compilation.

Mark B and Blade also make a return with a Phil Cypher remix of Ya Don't See the Signs, the track that reached 23 in the UK charts.

The album does have its weak points, Champions of Nature's Salsa Smurf falls flat whilst Task Force's It's Us We're Back also fails to deliver.

Word Lab 2 marks the state of things to come and it is satisfying to hear a compilation filled with UK rappers rather than thugged-out angry US MCs.

It is an album filled with rhymes about issues closer to home rather than played out clichés and shouts about "rocking that party".

With the rising profile of Roots Manuva and Mark B and Blade, UK hip hop may have earned the respect and recognition it has been searching for and could soon give its US rivals something to worry about.

Word Lab 2 is released by Wordplay on 13 August.

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Mark B & Blade from Word Lab 2
Listen to a clip of Ya Don't See The Signs
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