They survived the genre-formerly-known-as-trip hop, that rambling, ambling chapter of British hip-hop where producers who knew British MCs couldn't rap for beans instead made kickin' tracks that, no matter how good, made you yearn for a little Rakim to go with their Eric Bs. Now the Herbaliser (Jake Wherry and Ollie Teeba) has forged ahead into a brave new chapter of British hip-hop with " Very Mercenary." Mixing old school and new school, the duo invite top-notch guest MCs to rap over nicely constructed tracks, but still have an ear for that great run-on funk that trip hop was so indulgently great at embodying.
"When I Shine" booms like a proper hip-hop track under rapper Bahamadia's gruff flow. But four minutes in, Wherry and Teeba are still coming up with ideas and the whole thing builds into a musical free-for-all long after Bahamadia's gone. One minute they've got the Dream Warriors kicking it over a sublime track like "Road of Many Signs," then they're off into the Kurtis Blow-ish battle track "Wall Crawling Giant Insect Breaks." Outta nowhere there's the somber introspection of "Moon Sequence" and they even manage to get the U.K.'s best MC, Roots Manuva, on a nice dirty track before the whole thing's over. And I'll be damned if there isn't one track that gets its tasty little pulsing hook from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' "You Got Lucky." Very, indeed.