UK hip hop was dry for years. This is coming from somebody who was a big fan and promoter, back in the day. Then the fall in the popularity of hip hop came. For a long period, hip hop took a back seat as dubstep and grime grew into the music that was heard in nearly all clubs. The UK hip hop scene suffered and stagnated. Then, going back 5 years or so, a small scene developed in Manchester. The Mouse Outfit were part of the spearhead that drove this scene forward. Offering both young and experienced MCs the chance to feature on tracks.
It’s been an entertaining ride, watching The Mouse Outfit continually transform and evolve throughout their existence. James Defty (bass) and Chini (keys) have been around since their inception and are the brains behind the operation. Being involved in running a hip hop night where the mice were the resident band also let me see this growth from an insider’s perspective. There have been continual changes in the structure of the band, but where there was a lack of continuity in band members, there was a continuity in the release of high quality hip hop music.
The band have now decided that the time is right to release their debut album and have worked with the best talent Manchester has to offer. The youthful element of Manchester is well and truly represented: Ape Cult members Black Josh, Truthos Mufasa and Lyricalligraphy all feature on tracks, as well as Sparkz and Dubbul O of Black Voodoo. UK hip hop veteran, Dr Syntax (who tours with The Mouse Outfit) also features heavily on the album, and provides his reliable and finely-tuned lyricism. Taking things slightly left field, one of Manchester’s illest, Fox, provides the reggae-style vocals on a couple of tracks, to show that this band are not afraid of diversifying their sound.
The majority of the album features those timeless boom-bap productions, of which beatmakers Pitch and Chini are mainly responsible. ‘Sit Back’, which features Black Josh and Truthos Mufasa, has production which sounds reminiscent of the music from Grand Puba’s album, 2000. Not to mention, the band make full use of Truthos’ incredible vocal talent by getting him to sing the chorus. Black Josh also features on the tracks ‘Air Max’ and ‘Know My Face’, alongside Lyricalligraphy.Long-term collaborators, Dubbul O and Sparkz make a number of appearances on the album. They provide the vocals for the ska-influenced track ‘Who Gwan Test’ and the boom bap bangers ‘Shak Out’, ‘Never Get Enough’ and ‘Children of the Stars’. Dr Syntax appears on around half of the album tracks and I don’t even need to explain his credentials. He is as ‘been there, done it’ as there is to offer on the UK hip hop scene.
For me, Manchester is now the beacon that is leading the way in the UK, in terms of hip hop. The city is what London was in the late 90s and early 2000s and The Mouse Outifit are shining a light on the lyrical talent that exists here. Of course, I’m biased, but I defy you to listen to this album and find me another UK hip hop album, from recent years that sounds as good.
I’m proud of The Mouse Outfit and I’m proud of Manchester.