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8 out of 10
This is a good year for Young 'N' Restless, aka Yorkshire-based YNR Productions - the brainchild of rappers Jehst and Tommy Evans. It's the collective's 10th anniversary and they've marked it by releasing two of the best albums in their catalogue, Sir Smurf Lil's 'A New Bloodline' and Jyager's 'Encrypted Scriptures', both out in March. And following the closure of Leeds-based Low Life records last year after founder Braintax retired, YNR is standing up for Yorkshire's thriving hip-hop scene almost alone (many former Low Life artists are on this compilation). Actually, 'Feeding Time At The Zoo' is a showcase for hip-hop from all over England, not just Yorkshire or London.
It's refreshing to hear so many different British accents on one record, and some unusual voices in the likes of Dubbledge's breathy flow (similar to US alternative hip-hop giant K-The-I???), Sir Smurf Lil's slightly awkward lisp, Jyager's alternate use of a below the radar drawl and Cappo's Midlands slur. Married father of two Micall Parknsun is the most unique voice here though, writing about a set of crises different to nearly every other rapper - parenting, paying the bills and working at marriage ("my wife and my sons still show me love/but when the red letter comes it ain't enough"). Rapping is his job as well as a way of life.
The production is also excellent, especially from Jehst and DJ IQ (following another top performance on his LP with Asaviour earlier in the year). Jehst provides brash party beats, on the track by Mystro (like Roots Manuva in dancehall mode), and soulful Kanye/Common style tracks for Cappo and the veteran Kashmere (although 'The Legend Of The Lone Stranger' lacks the energy of the latter's 'The Jazz' 7").
DJ IQ supplies the most unexpected sounds on this whole collection, for the 93 seconds of Tranqill's 'Deadly Winterz' - all lo-fi post-rock spaciness and tape hiss. He also produced the title track by Jehst, where the YNR boss "drops comets" comparing human nature to animals in the zoo and calling on us to free our minds over soul samples, computer game noises and old school scratches. It's not Chomsky but it's more profound than rapping about having a nice watch. The future of British hip-hop is in safe hands.
1. Joker Starr - Welcome Back Home
2. Dubbledge - Alphabets
3. Sonny Jim - Flying To The Moon
4. Double D Dagger - The Daggers
5. Kyza - Dutty Boy Stomp Down
6. Sir Smurf Lil' - End Of The Day (featuring The Last Skeptik)
7. Mystro - I Got This
8. Verb T - Overworked
9. Jehst - Feeding Time At The Zoo
10. Tranqill - Deadly Winterz
11. Kashmere - The Legend Of The Lone Stranger
12. Micall Parknsun - Today
13. Cappo - The Jewel Man
14. Jack Flash - Step Back
15. Jyager - Make Up Your Mind