October 28, 2010

Sach O had a really good joke lined up involving your mom’s “girl unit” but decided against it.

Reinvention is inevitable: musical styles get swallowed whole by the passage of time and are spit up half-digested in wholly unique ways. Think of James Brown’s drums revamped as the backing for a thousand Hip-Hop classics or rock’s constant return to punk’s attack and the grit of the DIY era. It’s not always the most tasteful (or tasty) bits either; hopelessly camp disco divas get warped into demented house music cut-ups and rap producers from 88 to yesterday have been flipping everything from the Turtles to Haddaway into hits.

With that in mind, it’s inevitable that the past 5-8 years of southern rap would eventually find their way into the wider musical discourse. Predictably, the results have been mostly garbage (Salem, Witch-House in general, foreign trap-rap) but leave it to London to transform the 808s and synths of the Toomp era into something altogether alien. Girl Unit’s moniker says it all; he plays with Hip-Hop masculinity in a distinctly feminine dance music context.  I’ll spare you the “hardcore continuum/feminine pressure” spiel (go read your Simon Reynolds) but suffice to say, whenever the English dance scene gets a bit too mannish (Jungle, Grime, Dubstep), things tend to swing back the other way (Garage, Funky). Some of the best moments however, occur at sweet spot in between the two and with Wut, Girl Unit hits that mark square on the head.

Night Slugs:far superior to Day Slugs.

Wut is a lot of things at once. Those 808s are distinctly indebted to southern Hip-Hop related but also recall Juke. The sped up vocals borrow from Rocafella’s chipmunk soul but combined with those synths they also bring it back to the E-rush of hardcore rave. Of course, none of this would be possible without Dubstep’s halved rhythms and bassweight but ain’t nothing dubby here, there’s a glacial primness to the tune that’d almost be sophisticated if it weren’t for the random air horn blasts and swaggering beats. Already pegged as this year’s critically acclaimed anthem in the vein of Hyph Mngo, it’s impossible not to get swept up in the song’s uniqueness and euphoria and overall it’s a welcome antidote to the somewhat reactionary house-inspired material that’s flooded the critically approved end of things for the past year.

With B-Side Every Time upping the mania to panic-attack inducing levels while Showstoppa’s sampled “AY!” chant and orchestral bombast tightens the Hip-Hop connection even further, Girl Unit and Night Slugs have delivered a total package on this one. Hard without being stupid and smart without being sissy, Wut is officially the single best answer to the once rhetorical question: “why did T.I have to make a trance-rap track with Justin Timberlake?”

Clearly so the underground could flip it.

MP3: Girl Unit – Fact Mix (left click)

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