ALBUM RELEASE: DRS – ‘From the Deep’
WORDS BY DALE BURGESS
Anyone who is worth their musical salt and knows of DRS will vouch for him as nothing short of an iconic veteran of the Manchester urban music scene – an MC and vocalist who stood the test of time through the evolution of drum and bass, whilst keeping a warm seat reserved in his heart for all things hip-hop.
From his features on LTJ Bukem’s ‘Progression Sessions’ in the late ’90s to his seemingly endless wave of collaborations with liquid D&B heavyweight Calibre; DRS has been and continues to be at the forefront of cutting-edge drum and bass since the genre’s birth.
Like many great urban wordsmiths of his era, hip-hop is where it all began for DRS, sparking the creation of rap group Broke ‘n’ £nglish in the mid ’00s alongside local figureheads Konny Kon and Strategy. The turn of the decade witnessed his first solo album Grown Man Biznizz – a 12-track extension of the gritty yet playful hip-hop-esque sound that Broke ‘n’ £nglish championed.
Two drum and bass albums later – with countless singles and EPs in-between – DRS returns to his roots with fourth studio album ‘From the Deep’ – accompanied by his brand new label ‘Space Cadet’ to unleash it on. The whimsical nature therein Grown Man Biznizz remains evident in this new project, with references to getting loose on the weekend amongst other things – but a lot has happened in nine years and DRS will be the first to tell you that.
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From the Deep is exactly what it says on the tin – delving down into real word themes and occurrences from the past few years of the MC’s life – particularly revolving around society, bereavement, love, and everything in-between. Consistent in all his outputs, his soul is laid bare for all to see, with the track-list resembling a contents page to his heart and mind. Manifested throughout is a brutally majestic delivery of emotion and lyricism, presenting an opportunity to hear his passionate depictions delivered at a different BPM to what much of the new age drum and bass community will be used to.
None can argue that sublime craftsmanship in beat-making is the buttery biscuit base beneath all great hip-hop albums. DRS didn’t have to look much further than his own doorstep to find the right man for the job. All hail Pitch 92 – potentially the hottest hip-hop producer in the UK right now, never mind Manchester. His natural ability to fuse boom bap with jazz, funk, and soul proves that age is just a number, with the origins of his sound existing long before he did. Performing and producing with The Mouse Outfit since the turn of the decade, followed by two solid High Focus releases in less than as many years – Pitch plays a blinder in yielding the soundtrack to DRS’ masterstroke.
Each track within From the Deep holds its own identity and will connect with each listener in a different way on a different day – picking favourites is out of the question. Instead, here’s the three that grabbed me the most today in track-list order:
‘Northern galactic outlaw, mixed race pirate the Caribbean southpaw’ – round of applause for the sickest opening line to a track I’ve heard in a long time. Serial Escapist explicitly depicts over-indulgence and dependency on liquor and substances – with the video capturing a night in the life of a blurry bender, complete with face tattoos. Pitch’s trap beat fits the mood of floating in the twilight zone at 5am, as the final thirty seconds transition into slow motion, symbolising the inevitable wall that is hit when it’s all over. The words ‘Is this hip-hop? This is hip-hop’ flash up – a likely reference to the state of today’s hip-hop culture.
The production goes back to basics on Irreplaceable, using a simple drum beat under lo-fi piano keys – making room for an honest confession about the struggle to deal with the loss of loved ones. With direct references to DRS’ bereaved companion, the track feels like as much of a glowing tribute to the individual as it is about DRS’ path to coping with it. A sombre but elegant track that many will relate to.
A fine example of the emotional spectrum within this project. How Sweet It Is pays homage to the simple things in our ‘every day’ that keep us ticking over – the appreciation of the journey of life rather than the destination. Pitch’s production is sprinkled with the old-school, creating a chilled out beat that wouldn’t sound out of place in your bedroom as you draw the curtains on a brand-new day. A stunning piece of work from Manchester’s very own DRS and Pitch 92 – eyes peeled in the coming weeks for yet more new music from these two grafters. From the Deep is available to stream and download now on all major platforms.