Kid Acne
Romance Ain't Dead

By John Power

 
Whilst the country’s group mind engages in one of its periodic fits of the vapours and starts demanding the immediate locking up of every teenager in possession of a hip hop album, it’s worth remembering there’s a whole lot more to the genre than sexually repressed, oiled-up thugs brandishing machine guns and hoodied, granny bashing yoof.

And as if to prove that point here come’s South Yorkshire’s one-man answer to the Beastie Boys, Kid Acne, with his third album Romance Ain’t Dead. Having previously laboured in the leftfield undergrowth, Romance Ain’t Dead sees the self-proclaimed “rap Johnnie Briggs” emerge into the limelight with one of the most inventive and self-assured hip hop albums to have come from this country in years.

Avoiding nearly every hip hop cliché available, Romance Ain’t Dead instead heads into territory that, whilst less glamorous, is certainly a ‘realer’ reflection of life for most young people in the UK. Guns and bling are noticeable by their absence; instead we get tales of crap relationships, Fray Bentos pies and minor acts of drunken mischief rather than gang warfare. Neither though is he just another Pitman-esque novelty act; yes, you’ll probably find yourself laughing out loud on the bus to some of his tales of comic woe, but behind the laughs is a sharp incisive mind and an eye for the underbelly of modern Britain.

Musically, the album raises itself to a new level. If his debut album Rap Traffic was occasionally let down by it’s more willfully perverse moments, and 2003’s Council Pop was a solid slice of UK hip hop, this latest effort is a quantum leap in terms of production. With M.I.A. producer Ross Orton behind the boards alongside long-term collaborator Req One, he’s finally managed to combine all his different influences, from old skool hip hop to punk rock and even rave, into a coherent whole.

In fact, what is most refreshing is the lack of reverence afforded to hip hop. Despite being deeply immersed in its culture (as well as an MC, Kid Acne is an internationally renowned graffiti artist), he is well aware of the ludicrousness of grown men taking it all too seriously. ‘Be Boys, Be Men’, he exhorts on You’re Not Wrong, a track in which he also takes sideswipes at scratch happy ‘wank DJs’ — all the better for being delivered over the kind of pristine early eighties beat that would have the aforementioned men rushing for their lino.

The album effortlessly skips between such old-skool-preserved-in-amber hip hop moments to the glorious hooligan rush of 2, 3, Break It, or Oh No You Didn’t's football terrace Oi! stomp without ever losing its momentum. It even has the good sense not to outstay its welcome and, like most of the genuinely good albums out there, the whole thing fits perfectly on one side of a C90 cassette — a welcome change from many of it’s bloated, concept-heavy peers and an even more welcome addition to anyone’s music library.
 
John Power manages the Hot Sauce! blog
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