It took them a while, but they made it in the end. And they’ve done good.
Soon at the Latest is the debut album from Fur, an eight-piece hip hop-jazz collective from east London. Similar to the music of BadBadNotGood or El Michels Affair, this an album cramped with verdant instrumentals for late nights and crosstown journeys. It’s cheeky, it’s charming and it’s wildly refreshing.
Josh Solnick (aka Rap Man Josh) is Fur’s MC, and he is your loose-tongued guide through their heightened reality. “Plum fresh, lips fresh / Heart skipped, tiptoe… Oh, this is where heaven is… every time I kiss her I almost fall over…” Solnick’s descriptive verbs and phrases bring entire scenes alive, taking you down to the city streets to meet would-be lovers (‘Biannual Coffee Cups’), beneath the canopy of festival tent rap jams (‘Ultimately’), and sparring with the politico (‘Free’). Cheeky like The Pharcyde meets Marvel Action Hour, his rhymes sound like the work a street-smart sociologist who reads everything from The Killing Joke to Orwell.
But don’t take that to mean Fur make “high-brow music”. Soon at the Latest is as intelligent and accessible as anything from BadBadNotGood or even Kendrick Lamar’s jazz-influenced To Pimp a Butterfly. Composed and arranged by drummer Ben Assiter, keyboardist Greg Sanders and company, this whole album is a neatly-wrapped gift to jazzheads. There’s many a hypnotic outro (‘Please Forgive Me’). There’s a stupendous sax solo on the equally stupendous ‘The Rapman’. And, whether the mood is steamy (‘C’est L’amour’), solemn (‘Catwomen’), or jazz for a smudged sun in the early morning (‘Tell It to the Vast’), the sense of atmosphere is sharp throughout.
Fur owe plenty to their forbearers: from Roy Ayers to Questlove, and the Pharcyde to MF Doom. Yet next to nothing on this side of the Atlantic sounds quite like them right now – with the mild exception of Loyle Carner. This is hip hop with cheeky soul. This is contemporary jazz with old-school cool. Most of all, though, Fur never try to be anything other than what they are: a bunch of badass musicians making music that moves them and you.
Soon at the Latest is out now on Soul Rub Records.
[This review was first published on aaronlee.co.uk, Oct 24, 2016.]
Image: Fur/Soul Rub/Facebook