Punning Clan member Benny Diction has a solo EP out as a prelude to his debut album “Hard Graft, Arts & Crafts and Hearty Laughs” which is due to be released in early July. The emcee/ beat maker’s music career came to fruition upon him moving to Liverpool to study; there he actively sought out the city’s hip-hop offerings, and formed close friendships with the likes of MCs Oscillate and Ro Jista. Indeed, after the establishment of Punning Clan in 2005, he and his cohorts have gone on to achieve recognition in the UK hip-hop scene and are now beginning to emerge as full-fledged solo artists.
Now based out of East London, Benny also helps run popular hip-hop cultural event Fat Gold Chain alongside Solocypher and Chima Anya; a measure indeed of his commitment to all aspects of the art form. Inspired initially to write by Golden Age artists like Wu Tang, Rakim and De La Soul, the versatile hip-hop enthusiast has been penning rhymes for over a decade, and most notably shared his first bill with UK veteran Rodney P in Sheffield in 2001. On top of that, he also comes from a musical background, and his careful selection of renowned beatmaking and DJing talent for the EP really evidences this; indeed, the pool of talent is pretty diverse here: from Awe-Sum, a producer out of Passau in Bavaria, to Oslo-based Brooklynite MC/producer Zeps. The latter provides a wonderful speed-addled double-time instrumental on ‘What’s What’ and somehow manages to and accommodate a sample from Sibelius’ ‘Finlandia’, which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is quite a feat of musical genre coalescence. In the main, the EP’s experimental soundscape is characterised by soul- and jazz-inflected beats, abstract dub textures, boom baps and some badass scratches from the likes of Holdin’ Court resident DJ Ivan6, DMC Battle for Supremacy Champ and fellow Punning Clan member DJ Rasp.
The EP’s zenith in terms of production has to be ‘Working Nocturnal’ produced by Pro P with cuts from DJ Mr. Cosmo, and featurings by Vocalswords cohort Solocypher and N.S.R. founder Disciple AKA Spider Jaroo. With its prominent bass, scratches and old-school boom-bap emphasis, it’s the hip-hop head’s favourite. Another stand-out is ‘Jazzstix Society’ featuring production from Manchester-based Strict Status, over which Benny surfs some delightfully smoky soul vocal samples, tinkling piano keys and muted horns with his occasionally eccentric, but down-to-earth meditations on life. ‘Braised Beef’ features some equally fabulous syncopated jazz bounce production from Awe-Sum, to which Benny himself adds his own cultural nods to the producer’s Bavarian heritage with references to Weißbier and Blutwurst, and a wealth of various other sensual epicurean delights as caviar and Panama cigars. There’s also a nice smattering of lyrical oddities in there for good measure too: “As likely as Abu Hamza sharing a hog roast with Nick Griffin”.
Although the hooks take the EP down a notch as they tend to be slightly undeveloped, there’s a genuine telepathic harmony between the producer and emcee on each track. For the most part, Benny also finds ways of injecting something different into each song and his lyricism, which is betwixt and between real and abstract, and remains charmingly elusive, while the production is imbued by quality source material and bears a real rhythmic emphasis.
Overall, this is a quality release with an enduring sense of professionalism and craft devoted to it.
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