If Cam’ron is good enough to look for talent overseas and Jay-Z can nab Lady Sovereign, then Great Britain might just overcome America’s mainstream myopia. Vice believes it. And so the second edition of its Run the Road series follows the same grime-y trajectory as the first: over-synthed production and a host of hungry MCs obsessed with ’90s-style battle lyrics. The results demonstrate how large the gulf between mainstream stateside hip-hop and British grime remains. Production’s not an issue; placing his verses over a Baroque acoustic-guitar riff, Plan B is morbidly captivating. And Bear Man’s “Drink Bear” remix cuts and slides the way a dance-floor burner should. But as long as JME is claiming that “major labels don’t want killers” and No Lay is rehashing the difference between “a lyricist and an MC,” neither should expect a warm welcome on this side of the pond. That may speak poorly of American audiences: musical isolationism shouldn’t exist if you’re nice on the mike. But Run the Road still has the unfortunate distinction of showcasing hip-hop that’s too unusual, too exotic, and even, perhaps, too ahead of its time.
On the Web:
Vice Records: http://www.vice-recordings.com/