Forming tangibly from the noxious fumes of UK hip-hop stalwarts Defenders of Style comes Def Sentence, the new album from crew members Joe Snow and Jack Danz, who clocks an overtime double shift as producer. Defenders of Style were known for their blunted, bass heavy paeans on city life, inebriated escapades and shady characters. Def Sentence sees no valid reason to desecrate that formula, and nor should it. This is a ticket directly to the underbelly of society via every bar encountered on the way, a common coping mechanism for Brits coming to terms with Brexit.
Jack Danz’s beats waste little time with suggestion or innuendo, instead producing thumping psychedelic cuts at a whim, sometimes imposing and claustrophobic, always completely arresting. Both rappers are obviously at ease on these moodscapes and proceed to embellish them with grit and filth, which embeds itself deep into the fabric and attacks at the stem. Opener “Cryochamber” does a lot of the introduction work. The bass hits with a medicated thud while off-key melodies tinker in the background and the two emcees showcase their different styles. Jack Danz brings the sedated drawl, announcing Armageddon with an unnerving sense of calm. “I got the crowd sat in/My throne and gown satin/I’ll turn a sceptic to believer with that brown acid.” Joe Snow wields the wild-style flow given a reboot to a far less optimistic present. “My fam will plant their hands up on your dome-piece/Slang will get shit popping just like highlights on a chrome-piece.” Together they paint a bleak picture which forces the listener to search for the beauty between the chunks of vomit.
“Catch22” utilises a classic hip-hop piano line to create a sinister, paranoid atmosphere which Danz and Snow do frankly very little in their verses to lift. The duo manages to pepper sly wordplay and quotable lines throughout the general sense of impending doom, proving if proof were needed that there is no conceivable situation which would not be alleviated by a nice turn of phrase. As Jack Danz consternates: “I could tell that it fell through the carousel/Bang the bells, more cells than the average male/All them Ls, man you past your sell/In the traps getting daps from the hands of hell.”
On “Repopulate”, the production is crunched and compressed into a warped high-end frequency, snares capable of decapitation and a low-end frequency that could shake the beer out of a pub carpet. “Parenthetical” is in a more organic vein, using live drum samples to coax out some measured responses on the shitstorm surrounding us rather than running directly into it, shirtless, whooping.
“Last Offer” features a turn from Australian rapper Adam Koots, building a Transatlantic connection which overcomes physical distance by reducing cultural distance to zero. It turns out Australian artists get up to just as many nefarious activities as their UK counterparts, only using different slang. “Got the Cuban, hit the doogan” can probably be deciphered by keen lexicographers based on context. “Cigarettes” takes an unexpectedly sombre turn, a melancholy chord sequence allowing Joe Snow to wax philosophical on the search for meaning in world seemingly devoid of it and the emotional tax attached. Plato even gets name-dropped in Jack Danz’s verse, which I’m sure he would have been delighted with.
“Tiffany Necklace” ends Def Sentence on a far jauntier tone than previously displayed, with a piano line bordering on perky and a rhythm section nigh on funky, if such a thing were possible. Clearly aiming to bid adieu on a high note, Snow and Danz ramp up the braggadocio and charm offensive, dropping a few choice punchlines on us as parting gifts. “I raise hell for the fuck of it/Done a couple more stints on the mothership/You at the crib watching YouPorn/I’m at the club getting lifted like a newborn.” In a world consuming itself daily, music which addresses this has a tendency to veer either into wild-eyed, vaguely psychotic positivity or the pits of depression. Def Sentence bravely bucks both of these trends with the most honest response: a despondent shrug, some wry sarcasm and a disgusting bassline. Sign up to this aspirational world view by grabbing Def Sentence here.