Stereo MC's

Deep Down & Dirty

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In 2001, several years after any listeners could've expected a follow-up to 1992's Connected, Stereo MC's finally delivered with Deep Down & Dirty. It's a tribute to how far ahead of the curve Stereo MC's were ten years earlier that Deep Down & Dirty never strays far from the spirit of Connected, but still sounds perfectly up-to-date for 2001. It's clear the productions are more mature and more complex, but they still plumb the depths of deep-groove beatbox funk, with nods to soul-jazz and gospel. Still tossing out lines with the half-assed cool of Shaun Ryder or Ian Brown, frontman Rob Birch doesn't rap quite as much as he used to (that's a good thing), and the productions are a tad more down-tempo and dubby than when the band was at its most clubbed-up in the early '90s. The title-track opener sets things off in fine fashion, working a stuttered mid-tempo groove with split-second snippets from the horn section and a full-throttle vocal backing. In true soul tradition, the upfront mover "Graffiti, Pt. 1" segues into a bongo-led "Graffiti, Pt. 2." Birch even sends up his slacker-cool image on "Sofisticated," a groovy piano-and-beatbox number. Along with Birch, producer Nick Hallam (aka the Head) is the other key to what makes Deep Down & Dirty so much fun, packing his productions to the bursting point with dusty beats, lines from old Hammond organs, and samples of bygone soul shouters. Despite a few traditionalist, anthemic tracks ("We Belong in This World Together," "Running") which don't work as well as they would've in the heady days of 1993, Deep Down & Dirty is a solid record that reveals no trace of cobwebs from Stereo MC's long hiatus.

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