Wednesday, 27 August 2014

1000 Great British Hip Hop Albums #2 - Fallacy's 'Black Market Boy' (2003)

Some artists are able to transcend genres, eras or trends and survive & adapt to new challenges in music. Some artists stay in their own lane and manage to carve out a niche that satiates the die-hards - this homebase allows them to prevail. Other artists however, flash like lightning but for whatever reason fail to roll with the thunder. Often this final group are exposed as fads or unable to replicate the successes of the past through a mere lack of ideas or ability to keep up, but our second entry had it all at once...and just couldn't for whatever reason, push over the top.

Fallacy was, at one point, touted above everyone else to hit gold and make that all-important crossover move to the mainstream kingdom. Not only that, but he was to do this without selling his soul. A tough sell, indeed. However, after the hype generated leading up to the release of his debut full length LP 'Blackmarket Boy', it was certainly feasible.

Both his beat selection in the past (namely his work with his main partner Fusion) and his own style and skill lent itself naturally to the radio-friendly ear. He had the swagger to back up any success that was forthcoming, and was white hot after the underground success of his signature song 'The Groundbreaker'.
This was followed up with 'Big N Bashy', a smash hit that managed to creep around the UK top 40 (no mean feat for a UK rap artist at this point) and was all over the urban music channels courtesy of a flash US-influenced video alongside the guest singer Tubby T.

The album dropped soon after this, and the years of work that was poured into this album showed instantly. It was a huge success critically, with almost universal acclaim credited to it, but then...

Fallacy's official discography to date, almost 11 years later, still noted Blackmarket Boy as his only full length release. He's popped up here & there in the years since, and has finally had a resurgence as part of the UK supergroup Sleepin Giantz alongside Zed Bias and UK rap legend Rodney P in the past year, but before 2013 he was that guy everybody in the scene loved but rarely saw. Sure, he was hardly a hermit, releasing the odd EP here and there, but nothing post-2003 ever stood up to the immense potential he showed with his opening crescendo.

So, with good luck to his newfound success and a quick recap on his past, onto the album itself. Before it dropped, my own personal experience of Fallacy's music and presence first came from an unlikely source, when Fallacy & Fusion used to host a hip-hop music video show on MTV Base (back when the channel was in its infancy and still played a variety of urban styles) for a short period of time. I taped it and watched it back religiously during its lifespan, as it was one of the only places in the UK I was able to regularly see underground US rap videos and discover new artists. The internet was still years off from being the basic amenity it is now, and it took about 5 minutes to load up the average 'naughtyslag.jpeg' at this point. Napster was on its way, but taking into account my parent's internet connection took a fortnight to download the average popular chart song, my chances of being able to discover Fallacy's music back in 2001/2 was fairly slim without this video show.

At the finale of one of the shows, they premiered the video for their own song 'The Groundbreaker' and I remember, even now, being so blown away by it that I recorded the audio from the VHS onto a cassette and abused that tape for weeks. From that moment on, 'Blackmarket Boy' was an 'event' album for me.

And judging by the press at the time, from Hip-Hop Connection to the even more mainstream broadsheet music journalists, it was an event album for many others too. Off the strength of 'The Groundbreaker' and numerous guest appearances by Fallacy on UK remixes of popular Rawkus 12" singles from the US in the early 2000s, he was able to get a major label deal through Virgin and really get to work on bringing his sound to the big leagues.

This deal allowed him to bring in the 'Champions League' of beatmakers in the UK to complement the hits he'd already created with Fusion. This gave it the feel of a true major label rap album the likes of which we usually see only from an established American emcee. Fallacy cherry-picked producers, whether through a marketing ploy put in place by his new employers or not, to cover a broad spectrum of urban musical styles ranging from straight boom bap and dancehall, to the most popular UK subgenres at the time in Garage and mainstream drum & bass.

Whilst Fallacy & Fusion formed the backbone of the album (and ironically most of the memorable moments on it, which raises the question as to why Virgin didn't feel confident putting the album together solely with the duo) there are occasional star turns behind the boards by drum & bass behemoths Shy FX & T Power and Roni Size alongside the odd inclusion of Rishi Rish, who was riding high at the time with the success of songs he'd made with eventual Cash Money Millionaire Jay Sean and their cohort Juggy D.

As far as the lyrical guest spots go, these were kept to an absolute minimum, allowing Fallacy to weave slang tapestries dripping with britishness, confidence and defiance. The only emcee to run with him on the whole album is Rodney P, who lends his inimitable vocals to 'Rap Folly', a Fusion-produced anthem poking fun at the nonsense they see in the rap scene on a daily basis. They go back-and-forth with experiences throughout their career and boasts of superiority over the average competitor.

Up until this point, all tracks have been Fallacy & Fusion, and the album is top-loaded with singles (both the aforementioned 'Groundbreaker' & Big & Bashy' are stacked back to back at the beginning after the opening title track). But once 'Square Beamer' kicks in with Shy FX & T Power trading in their usual DnB for futuristic bleeps and a more traditional rap groove it becomes a family affair.

Nearly all of the tracks on the album are blatantly designed to be hits in their own right, whether through club success or radio play, and this trend continues with 'Stopclock', a Full Range Production track that dances between garage & 2 step and hints towards early grime tendencies at certain points. Fallacy sounds at home just as much over these new styles as he does over his bread & butter, and this is something he's proven over many years. His current group Sleepin Giantz are experts at genre-bending and Fallacy is just as comfortable on modern dubstep and bass music as he ever was on any of these Blackmarket Boy tracks.

'Ooh' keeps the mood light, and Roni Size's 'Scrunch' is a truly classic RS banger that would be just as welcome on one of his Reprazent albums with Dynamite MC over the top. Fallacy is at his arrogant best over this song, and its one of the rare moments towards the end of the album that is able to replicate those earlier monster hits.

Speaking of monstrous, one of the album finales is called just that, and although lyrically its standard 'high life' fare, one of Fallacy's most prized assets is his ability to throw a swag cloak over anything and make it sound essential. The dude is Harry Potter ghosting past villians on some of these songs and its wonderful to hear.

A Shy FX & T Power Groundbreaker remix tops things off at the death, bringing things full circle and I can honestly say that despite the influence it had over the UK rap scene and Fallacy himself in the time since it was released not living up to the anticipation, its as fresh now as it was 11 years ago.

Its a shame Fallacy wasn't able to translate Blackmarket Boy into a mainstream career similar to many british emcees since, but that should never take away from how great this album was, is, and most certainly always will be. Enjoy it.

As usual, Spotify and iTunes links below for you to listen to and support the artists. If you liked this piece don't thank me, thank Fallacy.


No comments: