UnderSong Underground: Metermaids

Sadie Walton profiles the biggest and best underground hip hop artists of the moment. This week: Metermaids.

Genre: Hip Hop / Rap / R’n’B fusion
Label: Strange Famous Records
Upcoming Projects: New tracks in the pipeline, but nothing concrete yet.

If I was asked to define the future of modern Brooklyn hip hop in one album, I would grab Rooftop Shake by the Metermaids, wave it in your face, and get it all up in your grill.

The Metermaids are made up of Sentence and Swell, two NYC based emcees, plus DJ Rob Swift (who you may know from the X-Ecutioners). Alone, these three drop some pretty awesome tracks, with some astute rhyming, banging cuts and trademark scratches (as in Planes Down, which is Generation X-rap-metal-fusion freaking awesome). But the icing on the cake is Rooftop Shake and its production quality, handled by 9th Wonder and M Stine. It is this album that separates the Metermaids out from the hundreds of other wannabe hip hoppers hanging around Coney Island.

Of course, producers can’t make gold from dirt, and the natural raw talents of Sentence and Swell were picked up by Sage Francis (Strange Famous Records) after they dropped their five track EP, Smash, Smash Bang(which, in my opinion, is the uncut diamond in their crown – proper rap/rock hybridised magnificence).

But it is when listening to Rooftop Shake that you suddenly realise - Oh. My. God. This album is GOOD. But not just underground good. Thanks to 9th Wonder, who has produced tracks for Jay Z, Drake and Murs (amongst many, many others) this album contains hits which you could realistically see in the Top 20 alongside Chris Brown and Beyonce (who, by the way, he has also worked with). Really.

If you need further convincing of this, I would have to point you towards Ghost Town. With the slick raps of Swell opening and the cool, R’n’B soul hooks that 9th is so well known for, this song is an ultimate showpiece for the Metermaids. Reading their blog on the subject, it sounds like the track almost beat them. But they turned the corner and the final product contains something you rarely find in an underground hip hop album: Commercialism.

The trick with Rooftop Shake is that it has such universal appeal. It has hip hop and rap, combined with soul, breakbeats, DJ scratches and R’n’B. 9th Wonder’s influence is heavy throughout the album – the rhymes are tight, the harmonies fluid and the production slick. But I’m not saying its commerciality makes it a bad hip hop record. Au contraire. It gives these unknown, underground, underpaid emcees (both Sentence and Swell still work day jobs) the best chance at breaking into the big time that I have ever seen from artists on an independent record. And even better, if they DO make it big, they will do it on merit, and without compromise, as the sound created on this album is just so… well, Metermaids. 9th Wonder has given these talented guys to key to the golden faucet, without shadow of a doubt (specifically in Gone, which I reckon is the record Jay Z would have made, if he was allowed). However, it’s up to them to figure out how to use it, as 9th’s production spot was purely in a guest capacity.

From reading their blog, it’s clear this album was a labour of love; a challenge, both musically and stylistically. But they have nailed it, and created a record which could sit proudly next to The Black Album on anyone’s CD shelf. Yeah, I said it.

But this isn’t an album review. Yes, Rooftop Shake has something different about it, which gives you the kind of goose bumpy feeling I imagine Simon Cowell got when watching an unknown Leona Lewis warble her first notes on X Factor. You know something big is going to happen for these guys. But you can see how they got there from listening to their back catalogue of tracks and mixes. The raw talent and tight hooks are all there on Smash, Smash Bang and Hello, and it’s clear that although Sentence and Swell are awesome lyricists, they need a producer who can keep them in check, lay down some beats and sew it up into a neat package (which both M. Stein and DJ Swift do tremendously well, when 9th isn’t about).

The guys themselves describe themselves as “The Bad News Bears of Hip Hop”. However, if there is one thing I reckon the Metermaids need to do is focus on getting their Bad News OUT THERE. Because these guys will go far; that’s if they let themselves.

Recommendations:

For unadulterated hip hop beats, download Smash, Smash Bang from www.metermaidsnyc.com.

Stand Out Tracks:

Bad Things, Rooftop Shake (Strange Famous records, 2011)
Blackout Baby; Smash, Smash, Bang (Metermaids, 2009)
Matchbooks, Hello (Metermaids, 2010)

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