Thatmanmonkz and Malik Ameer have joined forces to create one of the year's most thoughtful and outspoken hip-hop albums. Matt Anniss gets the lowdown...
Last time iDJ caught up with Scott Moncrieff AKA Thatmanmonkz, the Sheffield-based producer waxed lyrical about one of the many guest vocalists who had made their mark on his brilliant debut album, Columbising: Paris-based American poet, rapper and film-maker, Malik Ameer.
"Since we first collaborated on Baked for my album, we really hit it off," Moncrieff explains. "When we finally met for the first time, we hung out at Malik's flat in Harlem and spent a couple of days listening to hip-hop, from its beginnings until the present day, and really had similar tastes in it."
A plan was soon hatched to work on some rap tracks together, inspired by the "golden era" of NYC hip-hip, with Moncrieff manning the boards and Ameer providing lyrical flows partly inspired by the life of a true black American hero: Madison Washington, an enslaved cook who led a successful revolt on a slave ship in 1841. Remarkably, Washington managed to sail the ship to the British-controlled Bahamas, where slavery had already been abolished, in order to gain freedom. On docking in Nassau, Washington and 134 other slaves were declared free men.
"It was the most successful freeing of slaves in the history of the United States, but it's rarely talked about or taught in schools," Ameer explained in an interview with Gilles Peterson earlier this year. "When working on this project I attempted to embody what Madison Washington would be now, traveling through life and looking at everything with the same free slave/slave revolt mentality coursing through his veins."
Naming themselves after the oft-forgotten hero, Ameer and Moncrieff delivered their first joint EP, Code Switchin', on Def Presse earlier in the year. That was followed last month by Facts, a fantastic full-length excursion that expands the pair's musical repertoire far beyond the golden era beats that first inspired their working partnership.
"For the album we wanted to show a lot more of our diversity within the genre as a whole, reflecting different styles, regions and time periods," Moncrieff says. "I've made no secret of my love and admiration for J Dilla in the past, but this album is just as much sonically influenced by the Bomb Squad, Organised Noise, UGK, Parliament/Funkadelic and a whole host of other producers from the 80s until now, within the whole spectrum of hip-hop."
The result is a hugely enjoyable and wide-ranging hip-hop album that draws on jazz, R&B, modern soul and gospel as well as Dilla, Public Enemy, Main Source, Black Sheep and A Tribe Called Quest. While those who only know Moncrieff from his more dancefloor-focused work may be surprised, in truth it's merely a return to his roots.
"Making a hip-hop album is certainly something I always wanted to do, but I had to find someone 'right' to connect and build something with," he admits. "Malik is one of the most intelligent and spiritual people I've ever met. As an MC he is very much from the school of commanding voices that should be listened to - like Rakim and Chuck D. I'm fully onboard with his beliefs and what he's trying to do."
Words: Matt Anniss
Facts is out now on Def Presse
Follow Madison Washington: Twitter