I used to listen to London’s – now adopted by Birmingham – Soweto Kinch in ungodly volumes back in the day before, for whatever reason, he fell out of my personal rotation – until I was reminded of how dope he is by his appearances in the British battle rap scene. He’s got that really cool British vibe, witty, self deprecating and full of energy, summed up by ‘Invidia’, a maniacally fast paced track backed by visuals suitably filmed in an abandoned asylum. ‘Invidia’ is probably the standout track from his epic album The Legend of Mike Smith, 40 tracks and two CDs long (and I know I’m late to the party, this dropped ages ago), but what makes Soweto Kinch really interesting is that he’s also a very dope saxophonist, so his releases are always an eclectic mix of jazz, poetry (or spoken word) and hip hop. Word Is Bond actually did an interview with the guy back in 2010 which is worth a listen if you want more insight into Soweto Kinch as a person and musician. Definitely recommended.
‘The Legend of Mike Smith’ is a double album epic from Soweto Kinch that tells the story of an aspiring rapper possessed by each of the seven deadly sins. Fusing jazz, hip-hop and spoken word narrative the album explores corporate sin, the temptations of capitalism and the travails of a young artist attempting to get signed. Featuring Kinch on saxophones, rap/spoken vocals and beat production it’s certainly his most ambitious recording project to date.
With the trio of Soweto, Karl Rasheed Abel (bass) and Graham Godfrey (drums) at its core, the album also features notable collaborators including vocalists Eska Mtungwazi and Cleveland Watkiss, pianist Julian Joseph, saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings and trumpeter Jay Phelps, alongside a cast of actors.
Drawing on influences as divergent as Dante, J.S. Bach, Ornette Coleman and Madlib, the album creates an alternative sonic universe to comment on this one and is a thrilling, cryptic and comedic listen from start to finish. As Soweto describes, “this concept really allowed me to push myself to stylistic extremes, light years outside of my comfort zone.”
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