There's always something about Brit rap that makes me wince. There have been too many braggers and losers, rappers with half a decent song and an album full of half rubbish songs. So Devil in the Distance by Marvin would have a lot of prejudices to overcome to please me.
From Brixton, some of Marvin's songs explicitly reference London (A track called Trocadero being an obvious example), though they could be about an inner city, any secondary school or any council estate. His lyrics, though a little broad, are clever and cleanly delivered. He raps about what's around him and has an eye and ear for the intricacies relationships and speech. The music is polished but also has the rough influences of grime and dirty beats.
What I like is Marvin takes his ego out of his work. He makes political statements without being polemic. Get By (Be Good) is a list of ills (from education to CCTV to housing) without forcing the issue of how hard it is, nor does it offer any solution. Goodbye is about gun crime, without judging if it's a good or bad thing but about why it is.
He's also effective at building ideas from lots of tiny details, and this is not better demonstrated than on Richard's Nan . This song is a hundred flashing camera phone photos, burning an image of community one mosaic at a time. The raft of Marvin's community are represented: the boys, the girls, the gangs, the racists, the gays; a reflected conscience made of the sum of it's parts.
Devil in the Distance is an intelligent album that tells its own story. It is confident enough not to ask for anything from you as it has its own energy to survive. I am very pleased.
Kwok W Wan
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