I would not have chosen this to review but I never back out from a challenge and personal bias is all part of the process. Not that I hate hip-hop or RnB - I just don't go out of my way to listen to it. But I recognise good music, whatever the genre and this just isn't it. The main problem is the guy cannot sing or rap or do whatever he is trying to do. He needs a song writer or learn very quickly and his accent/language choices do not help. I reviewed this sampler as an advert for the album. Even though this is just six of the first eight songs, I doubt they are the best it has to offer.
In anticipation of his debut album 'No Point In Wasting Tears', twenty year old London rapper and DJ Ironik has previewed his songs with a six track album sampler. After winning Best Newcomer at the 2008 MOBO awards, we expect great things from this young UK rapper. Sadly, it is a truly annoying and frustrating listen. Maybe 2008 was a bad year for MOBO newcomers. Or maybe Ironik (if you excuse the lame spelling) is living up to his name and has everyone fooled.
When RnB and hip-hop is good, it is really good. It can be uplifting and challenging but also inspired and original. With a DJ at the helm, a wealth of songs and samples are fused into the mix to create unique textures and sounds. Ironik has done none of these things and to make matters even worse, his rapping is as hopeless as his song writing. Every song, with the exception of 'Broken' (sung by Digga) is plagued by his weak voice and some of the worse lyrics heard this year. A series of attempts at the same love song formula, in which he has to introduce himself every time, would be funny if it wasn't so tragic. He also consistently breaks the fourth wall and makes reference to the songs he is singing, as if he is doubting his own belief.
If you had the vinyl cut of the album you would be mistaken in thinking that the opening song 'Stay With me (Everybody's Free)' is being played at the wrong speed. But no, the sampling is supposed to be like that, lifted straight from Alvin And The Chipmunks. How this reached number five in the UK singles chart is a damning indictment of the world in which we live. At one point Ironik sings "Sometimes I sit and wonder, is this life really for me?". On this evidence, and in spite of his earnest outpouring of emotion, we all know the answer. 'I Wanna Be Your Man', introduced by another name proclamation, is more high pitched sampling and weak lyrics. Ironik keeps resorting to saying things like 'listen' and 'understand' when he has nothing useful to say, which is often. So yes there is a vibe but it is empty and soulless.
'Tiny Dancer (Hold Me Closer)', featuring the best of the guests: Elton John, almost works but sounds like a DJ singing over the original tune at a wedding. Another weaker song plagues it like a parasite. Due to this thin cohesion, the entire composition has no depth; there is no solid connection between the two singers of this 'duet'. The only song not to feature Ironik on vocals is 'Broken' and that is not much of an improvement. Instead of amateurish hip-hop, there is wet crooning. As the album progresses, the final two songs on this sampler show signs of promise. 'Tracy' makes a decent job of reworking the acoustic guitars of 'Dreams' but then Ironik starts singing - his worse vocals so far. In an attempt to make things more interesting on the chorus, a horrible vocoder is used. No quantity of technology can disguise his voice. Moving on, 'I'm Leaving' is a combination of sharp percussion, female backing vocals and a very dull piano track. The lead vocals are better but unfortunately the song writing is not.
The album has eighteen tracks so on the surface you certainly appear to get plenty of music for your money. But appearances are deceptive. Three of the songs are from other artists (Digga, Iain James & Ny and Daniel De Bourg) and only five songs do not feature some sort of collaboration. Not that this is a problem, as Ironik has obviously earned the respect of comrades and but it all looks and feels superficial. The sampler is only six out of the first eight songs but if these are the best he has to offer, something is seriously wrong. As a closing point, a cheesy line saying something like 'Save yourself the pain, there is no point wasting tears on this album' would be crass but entirely appropriate. But it really isn't worth the effort.
-- CS (for AltSounds)