Vicious Circle – Bagged Out (2001) (CD) (FLAC + 320 kbps) ”You have to give Wolftown credit where credit’s due. Since the early days of UK hip hop every other emcee or producer comes out proclaiming that they’ve got their own label and are gonna start releasing soon. It’s not unfair to say that most of these plans remain pipe dreams, a few releases may appear but reality soon bites and the crew in question rush off to make garage tunes. Probably.

Wolftown on the other hand already have an impressive track record of hard work behind them and all without making a song and breakdance about it. For this they should be applauded but Mr Kipling didn’t get a reputation for exceedingly good cakes by simply baking shitloads of them. The next step in the Wolftown campaign is the release of “Bagged Out”, the debut album from Vicious Circle, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so lets tuck in.

On first listen it is clear that the emcees are naturally talented and flow over the beats well. I’m grateful for the chance to hear emcees who are on top of their game and who don’t feel the need to resort to over complicated lines and intricate metaphors, which seem to be flavour of the month these days. Similarly the subject matter doesn’ t really stray from the familiar stories of inner city life in Britain and reminds me of the type of material that London Posse or even Katch 22 used to produce. Years ago these ghetto tales were ten a penny for UK rappers but are strangely scarce these days and are seldom done well. Thankfully Vicious Circle pull it off with just a couple of songs failing to hold the attention.

The music (with executive producers Late and Tricksta) underpins the album nicely and marries with the rappers very nicely. It doesn’t jump out at you in a way that instantly bowls you over but it has grown on me with each new listen. One gripe is that the Wolftown boys might have aimed their sights a little lower in terms of the number of tracks on offer. With 17 full-length tracks (plus 5 interludes) I feel the beats are a little too similar to carry it all the way through. There certainly isn’t any weak tracks or filler but it could prove a little too lengthy for people to digest in one sitting. Perhaps more variation in tempo or a larger dose of cutting and scratching would have mixed up the sound and provided something else to focus on.

Having said that, there is plenty of tracks to single out as worth the purchase on their own; ‘Burglars’ has a lovely loping groove and thought provoking lyrics. ‘Usman’ has an addictive stuttering beat, ‘3 Kings’ is a highlight, as is ‘Mission Addition’ (featuring Late) but I have to pick out the track School Daze as simply brilliant. 10Shott and Size8 drop story rhymes about their time in school over what sounds like a wicked, guitar sounding riff and a good thick drum track. This has to be put out as a single and you have to hear it. Quality stuff and easily the best track.

Overall, a solid debut for Vicious Circle and should grab your attention if you’re looking for something a little different. So the beats could have been a little more varied but really it is just overlong, but you could argue that this is value for money. Significantly the guest vocalists fit in very well without stealing the limelight, the Vicious boys are on point and shine throughout. It takes UK rap back to it’s inner city themes and offers you something else amongst the current crop of contenders by not striving to be too clever or intricate, it keeps it’s feet firmly planted in reality and for this, it is a refreshing change to my ears. A feather in the hat for Wolftown Records”

1 Bruce
2 10Shott & Size8
3 Us Man Featuring – Conman
4 Burglars
5 3 Kings Featuring – High Timez, Natalie
6 Muffed Mothers
7 Told You Featuring – Nyli
8 Money Makin’
9 Watch Ya Gyal
10 Bwoy Featuring – Conman
11 Brothers
12 Twins Featuring – Conman
13 School Daze
14 Mission Addition Featuring – Late
15 Taxi
16 Millennium Featuring – Conman
17 Animal Instincts
18 Villains Tribute
19 Explosive Featuring – Villains
20 Bush Corner
21 Committee Cut Featuring – Conman, High Timez, Jai-Boo, Villains
22 Winston

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