Can conventional Hip-Hop have a twist? What is conventional Hip-Hop? Can Hip-Hop even be conventional? Questions I pondered briefly, while thinking of ways to describe the result of Pete Cannon and Dr Syntax’s duopoly, which has manifested itself in the subtly peculiar ‘Killer Combo!’ A conventional idea, executed in an unconventional way.
Why the ‘conventional’ questions? Nothing on this long player is ground breaking and the song concepts are nothing,g I haven’t heard before. But there is something about the whole project that is a little left-field. Example one: track number 8, ‘Weed and Ale‘. Superb bubbly up-tempo Dub Hop that veers into a neck achingly nostalgic Jungle fest. Remember the constant change in drum patterns back in the day? Pete Cannon brings it all back. The Drum and Bass/Jungle switch up has been done, but I haven’t heard it executed in such an original way before. Example two: track number 9. The brilliantly cheeky and somewhat satirical ‘Middle Class Problems‘.
Dr Syntax expertly hams up the extreme lack of perspective of some sections (I did say some, this is not a generalisation), of today’s society. Lines like “My Soufflés flopped, my internet is down, I’ve got a gay dog….woof” need to be heard to be fully appreciated and the delivery of these is perfectly pitched.
It helps that Syntax’s voice lends itself to comedy, and that fact is used to maximum effect. When almost all of his peers would have made light work of ripping some of the more Braggadocio beats to shreds, the good Doctor takes a more carefree, light-hearted approach to putting wannabe rivals in their place. I mean, how are you supposed to spit “as nerdy as a Facebook fan page for Han Solo” and expect all of your listeners to keep a straight face? The key to Syntax’s success is in his delivery and 99 times out of 100 he is spot on. The downside though, is that on songs like the sugary “Got Me In A Spin”, you can’t tell if he is doing a great job of taking the mickey, a bad job of being serious, or a good job of making you think he is doing a bad job of…. and so on. Even the accompanying beat seems to be in on the conundrum.
Yet after all the one liners and off kilter social observations, I feel I am somewhat undermining the Doctors obvious talents when I say that the albums most probable chance of gaining more media attention doesn’t involve him at all. ‘Pete Cannon Sings The Hits Part 1‘ seems to be something of an added bonus and features the albums beat man in Pharrell Williams mode. Catchy Disco Pop meets Ol’ Dirty Bastards ‘Sweet Sugar Pie’ doesn’t make for an obvious bum shaker It could catch on.
My previous dalliances with Pete Cannon have been with beats a bit more in your face, than what he has assembled here, and this is obviously a result of tailoring his craft to the MC he is working with. It would have been easy to simply put some beats together and wait for the results. Yet every beat has that easy going, idiosyncratic vibe about it and is a perfect compliment for Dr Syntax’s charismatic, semi-cartoon like delivery.
For me, the only obvious misstep on the entire album is “No Time Like The Present“, which lacks either the originality of some tracks and the immediate stand alone appeal of others. Yet as a complete package, Killer Combo! Stands out from most of this years more prominent Hip Hop releases. Dr Syntax’s nerdish charm hasn’t gone away (he’s been around for quite a while) and Pete Cannon is (rightly) making a name for himself on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s just a shame that the fruits of their labour probably won’t get the attention it deserves.