MY 100th ARTICLE FOR NHC! AND MY ALBUM OF 2018 PART 1 - C. T. Herron

As of the time of writing I’m approximately 190,000 words deep into music journalism, which means I’ve written and published the equivalent of four medium-sized books on the subject in articles! The 21st of the 12th 2012 (the end of the world) was my first official assignment for NHC, an embryonic version of the Gonzo Division, Will Johnstone and I, were covering Culann’s album launch at King Tut’s.  Which means the 21st last month marks my 6th year with the now-notorious Hellfire Club. And what a year it’s been, chiefly because we finally achieved our longtime goal of opening our own venue ‘The Ice Box’ which is sure to be a game-changer in Glasgow (keep up to date here https://www.facebook.com/iceboxglasgow ) but also because Glasgow, as a city, remained musically on top in the UK, at least from my perspective, which, granted, is a biased one, living in the city surrounded by it, but Glasgow certainly has to be in the top five areas of a shattered and divided Britain producing great music right now, even if a lot of it is unrecognised by the mainstream morons.

I’ve been lucky enough to be baw-deep in local Scottish music for the last six years as a renegade journalist; and I’ve had some amazing times, truly incredible nights with some of the most talented musicians and nicest people I’ve ever met. There have been many highlights, from discovering bands in their embryonic stages that would later go on to be huge in the local scene, such as Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 and The Twistettes etc. To closely covering the Scottish hip hop scene and hanging with some of its best prodigies. And to things I would have never imagined possible, like interviewing Lars Frederiksen from one of my alltime favourite bands Rancid, to being invited to spend the night partying in Manchester with the Stone Roses and a whole glitterati of Manc music celebrities courtesy of Aziz Ibrahim, or when Chuck Mosley (RIP) from Faith No More spent the night, and I could go on, but my point is it’s been a helluva’ ride, and it only seems to be accelerating…

I was toying with a few random ideas for what to do for my 100th article; something semi-autobiographical, maybe a fucked-up piece of creative writing in the form of a short story published in chapters, maybe a retrospective of the some 180 separate artists I’ve reviewed over the years (just counted them all there, wasn’t expecting that many!). But in the end a backlog of music to review was piling up awaiting my attention, and there’s only so many days left of the year, so it’s high time to stop talking about myself and choose my local album of 2018…

Previous winners include; Girobabies 2016, Jackal Trades 2017, Steg G & The Freestyle Master 2018, and although I didn’t officially declare an album of 2012, 13, 14 or 15, if I had, 2012 would have gone to Culann, 2013 to MOG, and 2015 would have gone to Mickey 9s. I was drunk on a neverending White Russian binge for the whole of 2014 so it’s difficult for me to choose one for then now!

Anyway, this year I’m doing it a little differently, instead of limiting myself to just one album, I’m gonna give you my local album of 2018, my international album of 2018 and my favourite stand-out songs of the year, as well as some honourable menshies for the runners-up and some of the year’s more memorable live shows… Over two articles, 100 and 101… So, without further ado…

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NHC GONZO DIVISION LOCAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR:

Arguably one of Scotland’s best lyricists, probably the best rapper in Scotland on many levels, and definitely the most fucked up. I’ve been following his genesis and renaissance very closely over the years, and he’s probably released two albums just in the time it took me to write this article, more prolific in Scotland than AIDs in Africa… Gasp wins my local album of the year 2018 with his genius opus, ‘CUNT’.

The moment I heard it I instantly fell in love with tunes like ‘Little White Lies’, ‘When a Beggar Cries’, ‘Small Town’, ‘Cunt on a Wire’ and the epic ‘Sit Doon Yer Maw’s a Binman’ but the more I listened to it, the more I kept peeling back the layers of ingenuity like a festering scab you can’t stop picking at. ‘CUNT’ has made it into my day’s playlist almost every day since I properly started listening to it after the album launch (which was, by the way, an incredible night of some of the best Scottish hip hop has to offer, all on their A-game, from Loki to Physiks to Shogun to the man himself ‘The Being’ known as Gasp (for his signature sharp intake of breath). And now, many months later, I’m still engrossed in the pages of the book that is another chapter in this rapper’s long and illustrious career.  Brian stares at me gallously from the front cover with cold, icy blue eyes, ‘CUNT’ might be one of the best British hip hop albums ever produced.

THE LEFT ATRIUM (ENTER).

Trippy, like floating through psychedelic space, strap in to your rocket cos this ride is gonna get bumpy. Gasp cuts his heart out and slaps it down on the butcher’s slab, each song a slice of it, dripping blood, ensanguined. Spouting off offensive shit left right and centre in ‘Holy Ravioli’ in a casual way that makes Eminem seem contrived when he does it. This record defines the artist, though he claims he’s not even close to making an album that defines him yet, and I believe him, his genius is so casual it makes you think he composes this shit offhand while multi-tasking another two projects. The 2nd track culminates in some gruesome storytelling, and that will be the general theme of the album.

“I’ve got a Scottish accent… Tell me again about your hip-hop struggle…”

‘I’m a Raver Baby’ is a signature tune, a single perhaps, the opening lines are brilliant, and the ominous Psycho-like sound effects. Gasp’s inner demon can be heard rapping along with him in this one, as he lets it loose to rip the egos out of a few rappers. Every single line in this track is pure jaw-dropping skill!

“Fuck a hat, I’ll pull a rabbit out its own skin, while its still clutching on to the very thing that holds  its bones in. Is that Gasp? Oh you know him? No way he’s so grim, I heard they found him in a graveyard once trying to chew off his own limb!”

If you devote your ears to the words in songs like ‘Problems’ you’ll see the never-ending lyrical virtuoso that exists in every single song on here. “There’s honesty in my art” and there is, he wears his heart on his sleeve. I like to use this music to get lost in a bottle of bourbon to, you should try it. Shogun makes a brief appearance for ‘Images’, there’s 26 fucking tracks on this album! But it flows together as a concept album, it can’t be digested properly except in its full entirety, with the exception of a few of the aforementioned stand-out tracks…  

Some quality ragga style beats for ‘Uh’, with some more characteristically macabre masochism from the orator; “I was actually a twin, but at thirteen weeks [cooked] in mummy’s tummy, I strangled the cunt with his own umbilical cord and ate him for looking at me funny”. Some dark comedy coruscates among the blackness, but it’s like the brief glimpse of a star against the infinite backdrop of space.

‘The Polemicist’ is one of my faves, “looks like mummy made a mistake and raised a placenta”. Gasp rose to prominence through mastering battle-rapping, watch some of his battle raps on Youtube to see why, takes vituperation to a whole ‘nother level! Exemplified also in this track. Physiks, Shogun and Remark form for ‘Twisted’, and ‘CUNT’ feels like two different concept albums wrapping around each like two strands of the purest hip hop DNA in a double helix. Gasp’s demons have risen again for this song and the next too, ‘Trust No One’, his demons are rapping vicariously through his hollow corpse. Gasp’s already dead; he just hasn’t taken his vacancy in hell yet.

“Does this verse make you wanna throw up? So fuck. I wrote it in my own blood while holding my both nuts, masturbating over a picture of my own lungs smoking a pack of Marlboro, you know, the gold ones”.

‘Maniac’, and at times there’s a sort of 90’s dance/electronica vibe throughout the album which I shouldn’t dig but really do! It nicely balances the dark parts, which are like the death metal of rap. You might think Gasp’s rapping about death, but he’s really rapping about love, in his own experimental fucked-up way, it’s like he’s discovering himself as we discover him. And I guess that’s always been the key to good art. Meditating out loud, and in the public forum.

Now, I always thought Brian’s talk, of selling his soul to Satan to be the best rapper he could be, was just that, talk. But, you may well be swayed to believe it’s so, when you hear the scarily accurate, weirdly informed, brilliance of the journey on the ‘Road to Perdition’ parts 1, 2, 3 and 4. A concept within a book within an album; His shear greatness is demonstrated once again as we veer off down a sidequest to reclaim his soul from Lucifer. Enthralling, captivating storytelling, above and beyond. A true rap raconteur, a raponteur. I’ve never heard Terry Pratchett name-dropped in a rap song until Gasp did it, then weirdly it happened again with Kamihamiha’s ‘Cool Story Bro’!  Guess it was well overdue. Not gonna spoil anything about ‘Road to Perdition’ for you, just go fucking listen to it. It’s amazing.

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‘The Void’ parts 1 & 2 seems like Gasp once again stepped off casually into another side project, forming a supergroup in Physiks and Shogun and himself to bring us a thirteen minute masterpiece which you can check out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeCj4H0bn7U. The elite supergroup are joined by Konchis for a heartfelt execution of ‘Restless Friends’ and then it’s on to one of my top five favourite tracks; ‘When a Beggar Cries’; the smooth melody of which plucks at my heartstrings like they’re a harp being played by an angel of death, and Gasp’s melancholy monologue and lyrics are perfectly and masterfully married to the mellifluous melody.

‘Dead’ follows in the downtrodden blues-drenched mood of ‘When a Beggar Cries’ resurrecting Physiks for a verse or two. Loving the references to punk bands in this one! You should have given Gasp his Pepsi! ‘Cunt on a Wire’ is another of my top 5 of the album; it sounds off like a 90’s Ibiza anthem, but with Gasp’s unique twist and even a lyrical reference to my livelihood “a sous chef clutching on a Kitchen Devil”. Gasp’s lyricism in this is pure poetry! I know the sample, but can’t place it; it’s been annoying me for months and months so if you can place it please message me to alleviate my pain. I mean I could message Gasp and find out, but where’s the fun in that?

One of my top 5 of the record followed by another top 5 one; ‘Small Town’, love the beat, love the deliverance, love the emotiveness and the trippiness of it, Gasp always manages to capture his emotions with the perfect sample! And once again, lyrical profundity abound. And is Gasp’s name really Brian Adams!?!? There’s nothing I’ve liked better in the past few months, than getting roaring drunk and blasting this tune for all the neighbours. Again, I know the sample but annoyingly can’t place it. ‘I’ll Pick You Up At Ate’ is another awesome piece of raconteurial rap that I’ll not spoil for you and just tell you once again to GET THIS ALBUM! Gasp’s a wan-man Wu-Tang! Love his interactions with the backing vocs woman on this one.

‘Bucky Gang’ could be a national anthem for NEDs. And the Benedictine monks should be paying Gasp commission for the amount of promo he does for their tonic wine product, I don’t think he can do an album without mentioning it. But every true alcoholic’s love lies not in a woman, but a bottle, I could write more love songs about a bottle or a drug than I ever could about a girlfriend, for sure. Lots of clever witticisms in this song too.

Probably my second favourite track on CUNT is ‘Little White Lies’, an absolutely beautiful tune, I love the subtle chords, and the soulful vocals, offset by Gasp’s lamentations. Yet another tune I recognise the sample to but can’t place… Again, I love to get shitfaced and play this full decibel for every motherfucker in a fifty foot radius. The mark of a truly great song, is if you can get drunk and pour your heart out to it full blast. The kind of song I just wanna put back to the beginning and listen to all over again.

“Scottish rap’s Ernest Hemingway so I guess it’ll probably take my death to be fully appreciated is what I meant to say…”

‘Sit Doon Yer Maw’s a Binman’ is the best song of 2018, if my head had a music chart this song would have spent about 34 weeks at No.1 and still going strong! Gasp’s suicidal one-man-band really nails it with this one. The boogaloo intro, the driving percussion, the perfectly placed female orgasm soundbite, the way it just kicks in with attitude, everything about this song is perfect! Saving the best for last! Gasp’s the best count in his cuntry and we’re not even the best cunts in our current company! Who but Gasp can get away with shouting ‘Ye’ll get skelped in the nuts with a haggis ya fandan!’ and make it sound great!?

THE RIGHT ATRUIM (EXIT)

And so we come full circle, from reviewing Gasp for one of my first assignments for NHC back in 2013, to his album being my album of 2018, six years and a hundred articles later. Synchronicity brother.  Gasp is a very underappreciated artist, a life-preserver in a sea of hip hop mediocrity. It is indeed a problem being a Scottish rapper, most artists struggle to break America, Scottish rappers struggle to break England! Language barrier! I play Gasp, MOG, Mark McG, Mistah Bohze, Loki etc. to English friends and they don’t know what they’re saying!?

I can’t understand their difficulty to grasp Scottish rappers  either; I’m more Scottish than English, having been raised here mostly, among other countries, so I tend to act as a translator between my Geordie friends and my Scottish friends though I can understand both perfectly they can’t understand each other very well. It’s weird, the way languages work, and it’s a shame, because here’s Scotland producing some of the best rap in the world today and it’s dismissed almost immediately because the lyrical brilliance is lost in translation!

Just like with many of the best albums, ‘Darkside of the Moon’, or ‘Later That Day’ by Lyrics Born for a hip hop example, CUNT is one of those albums you can take to a dark room with some weed, some headphones, a bottle of rum, and really lose yourself in the magnificence and splendour and emotion of it. It’s available here, https://gasp.bandcamp.com/album/cunt-2  for free, which shows great integrity, but which is crazy, because this album is worth cold hard cash any day of the week! Listen to it, and I guarantee you a work of art, the beauty however, is in the eye of the beholder…  And so I told her, listen to Gasp, he’s got a devil on each shoulder, and he lets the fires of hell engulf you and smoulder…  And then I rolled her a joint, pressed play on the album and made my point, in his music she did anoint, because that CUNT does not disappoint.

CTH (GONZO DIV.)