As hip-hop in the US suffers through an era of mumble rap from the likes of 6ix9ine and XXXTentacion, this side of the Atlantic is trailblazing ahead, routinely reminding us how great rap can actually be. To name only a few: Ireland’s got Kojaque, England’s got Loyle Carner, and Scotland… well, we’ve got Stanley Odd.
Out on 12th April, STAY ODD is the fourth album from the hip-hop collective and their first for six years. It’s an absolute cracker. With the oomph of (almost) Run the Jewels-style beats, the album is saturated with raw cultural commentary put forth on the back of impressive lyrical flow by Dave Hook, aka MC Solareye, about the ‘oddities of the ordinary’.
It kicks off with ‘FUWSH’ (F*** You We’re Still Here), a bold Slim Shady-style middle finger to every critique the group has become bored of hearing. And just as your curiosity has been stirred, you’re smacked in the face by ‘Night Rip’, filled with an array of catchy hooks supplied by Veronika Electronika to a backing of almost liquid drum ‘n’ bass.
Similarly, the likes of ‘Undo-Redo’, ‘Invisible Women’, and ‘Where They Lie’ continue to fill the album with energetic enthusiasm. When the group finally has the opportunity to grace the stage again, these tracks will make up what will be a memorable sweaty night.
Taking a breather with the more chilled-out ‘KILLSWITCH’, we touch upon the superlative gem of the album, showcasing Solareye at his intelligently-delivered best. Lyrics like ‘council cut with a claymore / like Brexit you get what you pay for’ and swipes at the shameful incompetence of the establishment will leave your head bobbing in agreement, or at least they should. In perfect accompaniment comes an iconic music video, in which rhymes are delivered in front of a shutdown O2 ABC as Glasgow-based graffiti artist PANDA sprays his trademark Big Heid logo with the words ‘STAY ODD’.
The energy is further ramped up by ‘Bill Oddy’, a track with lyrics both amusing and self-deprecating. From insertions of a Chewin’ the Fat skit to lines like ‘I’m not 2 Chainz / I’ve got two weans’, you’ll be left tickled.
To pick up on these quips and contextualise the album, ‘STAY ODD’ comes with it a 56-page book featuring curated artwork by talented Scottish illustrators, including Matt Sloe. ‘It’s a lyric book, it’s a scrapbook; it showcases all the artwork, some video content, fan photos and – of course – the words and stories of the songs,’ says Solareye.
By creating an accurate reflection of our environment soundtracked by the voice of the underrepresented, the group consistently manages to add credibility to rap this side of the border. With 12 years under the belt, Stanley Odd (alongside Loki, Shogun, early Young Fathers, and, let’s be fair, recently plenty of others) have completely deconstructed the idea that Scottish rap should be seen as cringe.