Werd & Wardie
Vagabonds In Space
Produced by Zambian Astronaut
After all the talk of dirty nightclubs frequented by even dirtier dirties, doing dirty things to dirty dirt-bag boys, EU’s decided to clean up its act. Until next week, anyway. The sordid tales are to be put on hold for now, as it’s time to get serious and talk about the music. Occasionally, this weblog likes to promote local music, in the same way it likes to selflessly promote other laudable local enterprises; Shanghai; Stereo; Cav.
After the wordiness of the last two blogs (even by EU’s wordalicious standards), I’ve decided to keep this one short so as to give your eyes a break. Instead, it’s your ears that are gonna get it tight. Today’s task is to click on the track below and start listening to it. Then, as the music plays through, this blog is going to discuss what you’re hearing. Imagine how off-putting it would be if you were trying to have sex while your dad was stood at the end of the bed providing a running commentary. Well, I’m gonna be that guy. You can call me Dad of the Year if you like, but whatever you do, don’t ask me to pass the lube. I’ll do anything for love, but I won’t do that.
OK, are we sitting comfortably? Good. Now press the pretty orange play button and read on.
Going by my complex time-mapping calculations, you should be hearing the opening bars to Inner Monologue right now as they fade in. If you’re not then you’ve either got the volume turned down or you didn’t click play when I told you to. I hope it wasn’t the latter, because that would be cheating and cheats go to hell where they’re forced to subsist on sausages from The Chanter for all eternity.
How do you measure the success of a piece of music – by CD sales? Illegal downloads? Facebook likes? The number of neds’ phones it can be heard blaring from on the bus? These days, there is no money in music. Not that there was much before mind, but now there really is no money. Unless you shift 100,000 units, in which case there probably is money to be had, and hoes and platinum too. To get that many people to pay for your downloads however, you would first need to get ten million plays on YouTube. And to reach ten million plays – or even 100,000 – you need to have a song that’s either really good or really bad. Standout songs become internet classics – average ones get lost in cyberspace amidst all the other detritus that clogs up YouTube; teenage boys spewing up gallons of milk; cute, lovable kittens being so cute and lovable that it’s all you can do to stop yourself from liberating the local cattery and taking the little f****rs for a stroll by the canal with a burlap sack over your shoulder. Exactly how good does a video have to be before it goes viral on the internet? Pretty damn good is the short answer. We’re talking Rebecca Black good. The last time I checked, her poetic debut single had 160,000,000 YouTube plays. Since then, I’ve been for a piss and also had to go and drown some cats, so that figure’s probably grown by another ten million, a number that happens to coincide with India’s hourly birth rate. Of the four million ‘Likes’ Rebecca Black’s video has received on YouTube, incidentally, only ten percent were positive. Over 3.5 million people gave the video the thumbs down…before watching it another ten times in a row and singing along in the shower, but only ‘ironically’.
Of course, not all artists have it in them to make a song as awful as Friday. Some musicians stubbornly cling onto an intangible concept they call ‘credibility’, and doggedly refuse to dilute their output to appeal to the masses. While many of these people are extremely talented at what they do, their oeuvre is destined never to get the views, likes and downloads it deserves. That’s what you get for refusing to auto-tune your vocals and stuff your tracks with bland middle eights from whack rappers.
Vagabonds, the Edinburgh collective whose new EP is supposed to be the subject of this review, don’t really come from the Rebecca Black school of music. They’re from the other side of the tracks, or the other day of the week, if you will. If you’ve been listening attentively while skimming over this review, your ears will have already heard one ‘f**k’, and will shortly be treated to such pithy one-liners as ‘If you don’t like it hen then take this cock in you now’ and ‘As soon as his back’s turned I’m gonna stab him and leave.’ With distinctly fruity lyrics and a distinct lack of auto-tuning, it’s unlikely that Vagabonds In Space will be bothering daytime radio any time soon. On the internet however, where anything is possible – including video footage of Amanda Holden demonstrating that most of Britain’s talent lies six inches inside her sphincter – what hope do the Vagabonds have of breaking out of the city that spawned them? Well, consider this: earlier this year, an obscure Dutch rap collective called Dope D.O.D released a video called What Happened. Prior to this, their YouTube channel had only a fraction of the subscribers that Vagabonds and Zambian Astronaut have on theirs. What happened next was that the song got picked up by the blogosphere and shared about everywhere. People started going mad for it. That video was released to little fanfare five months ago. Today, What Happened has racked up 1.5 million hits and Dope D.O.D have got big name artists queueing up to work with them. The track What Happened is very good. But that’s not why Dope D.O.D got big. They got big because the video that accompanied it is very, very, very good. These days, it’s all about the visuals – the music’s just something to have on in the background. And if you’re concentrating on these words right now, you’re clearly not listening properly to Vagabonds In Space like I told you to. All of which goes to prove my point – a single these days is nothing without a suitably banging video to match.
Get these two things right, and you’re halfway towards becoming a musical phenomenon. Or a ten-minute YouTube wonder at least. To ‘go viral’ is the holy grail of all advertisers, the tipping point at which something starts to be organically spread in a way faster than any amount of marketing hype could ever hope to achieve.
A Declaration is the lead track off the Vagabonds In Space EP that you may or may not still be listening to. The obligatory video that accompanies the song is a stylistically smart affair, of that there is no doubt. But is it suitably good – or bad – enough to gather momentum? It’s too early to tell whether the cyber public of Edinburgh and beyond will take to A Declaration; after all, What Happened didn’t get picked up overnight (although Friday unfortunately did). Whether or not A Declaration gets noticed is up to you really. You and 120,000,000 others out there who all watched Rebecca Black and forwarded it to your mates but are now too ashamed to admit it. If you like the video that’s embedded at the end of this review, ‘Like’ it on YouTube. If you don’t like it, ‘Unlike’ it. And if you don’t feel particularly strongly either way, just ignore it and we’ll forget all about this conversation and get back to ironically listening to songs about our favourite days of the week. If the public’s verdict on A Declaration turns out to be unanimously awesome or unanimously shit, who knows – Vagabonds might just make it up there with Dope D.O.D and Rebecca Black respectively. If it turns out to merely be average however, then I guess it’s just another video that’s clogging up cyberspace, better than bloody kittens but not quite as good as boys spewing chocolate milk out both nostrils.
Incidentally, how do you know when a song’s on the verge of going viral? The first evidence is when someone makes a dubstep remix of it. And then a Hitler ‘Downfall’ spoof. These are the bare minimum if there is to be any hope of achieving legendary internet status.
I promised at the outset of this review that I’d give your eyes a rest, but like the father who promised not to beat off while yelling encouragement at his daughter, it would appear that I’ve lied once again. Seeing how I’ve overran my self-imposed word limit, I’m gonna have to miss out the review of Vagabonds In Space that this interminable introduction was slowly creeping towards. Instead, I’m just going to paste in the press release that was sent to me. Hell, whoever wrote this thing is far better with words than I am anyway.
This week sees Vagabonds In Space blasting into orbit, the startling new EP from two of Scottish hip-hop’s brightest stars. Werd and Wardie Burns, under their Vagabonds pseudonym, have collaborated with Zambian Astronaut to create a conceptual mini-album that merges orchestral flourishes with raw, resonating rhymes. Strings crash, snares thump and bass throbs as the Vagabonds spit uncompromising bars that ebb and flow over every track.
Werd is one of Scotland’s most respected rappers, his hard-hitting rhymes merging lightning-fast punchlines and astute social commentary. Wardie Burns, having released the acclaimed Oor Wardie album on UV Beatz, is earning a formidable reputation thanks to his outspoken persona and unique delivery that shocks and amuses in equal measure. With Edinburgh’s Zambian Astronaut taking care of beats, hooks and production, Vagabonds In Space is a slick EP that take listeners on a stellar journey, referencing Susan Boyle, quasars and the feasibility of mugging Paul Gascoigne along the way.
Scottish MCs Mog, Madhat McGore and Nostal also contribute memorable features to Vagabonds In Space. The five-track EP is available for free download now from werd.bandcamp.com
Lead single A Declaration is accompanied by an epic music video that cuts seamlessly between scenes of urban decay and lurid graffiti in Edinburgh and Berlin.