Apparently, I was wrong. I didn't realize that this could still happen. I was under the deeply flawed impression that since the advent of the internet age that it was impossible for an artist to completely sneak under my radar and drop a record that's so good and so completely off the grid that one is forced to ponder how the fuck did these guys go so unnoticed. I mean I thought I was up on shit. I check Nah Right daily. I read all the blogs that are worth a damn (and some that aren't...). I have untold legions of shitty MySpace rappers (and shitty rappers with label deals. I'm looking at you, Max B...) send me their ill-conceived Soulja Boy rip-off songs at rate that my Gmail spam filter is begging me for respite. So it seemed to me that it was completely inconceivable that an artist could just appear on my radar and drop one of my favorite records this year. But lo and behold, The P Brothers just did.
The P Brothers are two blokes hailing from Nottingham, England by the way of (inexplicably) the Bronx and their new album, "The Gas", is the sort of hardcore New York-esque rap album you thought they stopped making the second 50 Cent single-handedly murdered the rest of the scene back in the earlier quotient of this decade. The P Brothers consisting of DJ Ivory and Paul S are producers whose signature sound sounds like a minimalist El-P colliding with Infamous-era Mobb Deep and the RZA. Their beats are dirty and rugged and you can feel the dusty grooves and worn vinyl of the records they tirelessly sifted through in smelly, decrepit Mom & Pop record stores in the United Kingdom. The P Brothers have been kicking around the U.K.’s underground hip hop scene for years having worked with the likes of Sadat X and Donald D over the years so this makes it all the more surprising that they never even came close to crossing my instinctive travels over the paths of rhythm and rap music over my life. It seems completely inexplicable that I’ve neither heard of them or heard their work before. I mean I’ll admit there is a lot of stuff that I willfully have ignored over the years (I’m not an encyclopedia of marginal rap acts like noz) like the lesser works of No Limit, the discography of Mac Dre, and the entirety of any music produced by the country of Canada but I know who these people are How this managed to happen? I haven’t the foggiest but if I have to blame anybody I’m blaming Tom Breihan. Why? Just because…
Make no mistake, “The Gas” is decidedly throwback but in ways that you forgot good east coast (or in this case, British hip hop or as I like to say “reverse west coast” rap) could be. The bass overpowers and stalks the track menacingly, the drums smash against the melody like their supposed to and the vocal attack the beat. Unlike many producer driven LPs, the record is not driven by a stream of famous and semi-famous rappers of the moment but rather a quintet of unknown rap acts out of the Bronx which gives the album a cohesive feeling. Boss Money (Apparently, the remnants of a group called Boss Money Players…a group, I apparently have on my iPod. Go figure?), Roc Marciano, Milano, Res Connected and $amhill provide gritty, street raps while at times workmanlike allow the star of the show, the brothers head knocking beats to take center stage. Honestly, if there is a flaw on this record, it would be the emceeing. None of these acts really catch my eye as great rappers. They all seem kind of blandly generic, New York street tough mixtape rappers (except without the Nah Right pedigree and co-sign) . The only rapper I might revise that decision is $amhill who provides the vocals for the album’s stunning closer, “Don’t Question Me”, in which he crafts a stunning ode to loyalty, romantic or otherwise.
The album’s best songs knock with intensity and ruggedness. “Digital B-Boy”, the album’s best song, an electronic wall of buzz and old school beat break drums, is the perfect music for riding the subways late at night when the only passengers on the train are you, the passed out homeless dude smelling like Boone’s Farm and societal neglect, and the creepy dude who either keeps eyeing you to snatch your wallet Deebo style or make sweet, sweet love to your unwilling buttocks in the abandoned subway station. “Outta Control” featuring Roc Marciano is a razor in your mouth street anthem with a minimalist ’88 vibe and a bass line so memorable and powerful that you’ll find yourself humming it yourself when your cold and alone. These are the standouts but the record is packed with songs like these. Their isn’t a weak cut on the entire album.
“The Gas” is a record that is going to appeal to people who prefer Pete Rock to Timbaland. If you’re the type of dude who gets bored by anything that remotely sounds like it come out of an era that didn’t suck and generally prefer mediocre, “post-lyrical” rappers than you’re going to want to stay far away from this record. You’ll probably hate it. Violently. “The Gas” is a record that warms the boom bap dinosaur that resides deep within my heart. But hey, fear not Young Jeezy lovers, they rap about selling coke on this album. Wonderful!