“It’s not a bass kick, it’s the banging of your ear drums”
Recommended tracks: ‘Toleracist 2008’, ‘Carnival of Horrors’, ‘Crewd Sons (Ghost in the Machine)’
30KB, a.k.a. 30,000 Bastards, are a rap duo based in North-West England. They are comprised of beatmaker/blogger Tom Dissonance and reigning Seoul slam poet champion Agonist MC, formerly AcheZen Pains. 30,000 Leagues Under the Scene is their debut record, 11 tracks of crunchy, charismatic hip-hop slathered in neat samples.
The first thing I noticed on listening to this record: 30KB aren’t your ordinary rap lyricists. Far from it. Visiting Dissonance’s blog reveals a goldmine of links explaining (some of) the countless references in each and every verse, sitting on top of lines like “word play’s the religion against […] rigid scholastics”. The album opens, after a short barrage of samples, with ‘Welcome To Nothing’, featuring the silky voice of reggae singer Ava Leigh (who features multiple times), and you are treated to a complete typhoon of words and ideas, from Bananaman to Ouroboros and Hikikomori, all in one song.
It’s almost needless to say that you could get a bit lost the first few listens in, and this vibe sticks through the album, especially with the busy, oftentimes muddy production and Dissonance’s sometimes slightly quiet delivery. All this business is a mixed blessing, but one that is generously rewarding, especially on multiple listens. The beats, while generally chunky, pleasing and with a generous helping of vinyl hiss, tend not to quite have the weight to stand out in the mix, but all, without fail, are saved by the wonderful, unexpected chopping of all kinds of sounds and voices, like Orchestra meets Yosemite Sam in ‘Meet is What I Like to Eet’.
Particular highlights for me are Dissonance’s something-like-60-bar monster verse in ‘Toleracist 2008’ ranting on institutional racism in Britain (“they rock a blame-shift / to the people with no mouthpiece to clear their name with / refugees, Muslims, people on benefits”), the seriously intense organs and anti-establishment verse trading of ‘Carnival of Horrors’ and the unsettling, smoky lull that is ‘Crewd Sons (Ghost in the Machine)’ which sounds like 30KB hijacked your radio station to deliver a short, important message (with genius lines like “I can’t tell the fire for the CGI effect”) before today’s news cuts back in, perhaps referring to the album itself: “…and as result of that broadcast, the crisis has deepened dramatically”.
30,000 Leagues Under the Scene is an album that’s full to the brim with ideas and a joint lyrical / vocal ability that is outstanding, especially for a debut record. I look forward to their next record, and in the meantime I recommend you check this one out.