Young Fathers are a Scottish rap trio comprising members from across the planet. They have been going for a while but the outside world are only just catching on/up – Time Out made them one of their ones to watch for 2012. And now they're about to have their debut EP, Tape One, first released in 2011, reissued by Anticon. It's their breakthrough moment, if signing to a label synonymous with underground hip-hop can be said to mark their arrival as a commercial force – Anticon might not be in the Definitive Jux league when it comes to experimental rap, but it hardly purveys pop.
Funnily enough, Young Fathers do think of themselves as more pop than rap, which is odd considering their melodies, if any, come buried in askew rhythm and random noise. There are occasional snippets that catch the ear but hummable choruses are few and far between. And yet they're adamant: "I don't even see us as a hip-hop band," one of them has said. "Really we're just pop boys. We grew up with pop music, so that always makes sense to us when we're writing tunes." From Liberia, Nigeria and America, they have been working together in Edinburgh for years, since their early teens. They honed their rapping skills in open mic slots and began tentatively recording using cheap music software and a microphone from Argos. They initially saw themselves as a "psychedelic hip-hop boy band", but really they're hard to categorise. There are musical ideas and textures on Tape One that you'd expect from a post-rock/leftfield indie band, and there is some of punk's energy and DIY practice – they're a self-contained unit who make their own posters and direct their own videos. There are also African tribal and reggae beats, and generous use of electronics. Look out for signs of whimsy in their lyrics, and metallic surges: they're the missing link between De La Soul and Death Grips. If you didn't know they were Scottish you'd presume they were some art-rap outfit from LA – either way, being on Anticon should raise their profile in the US.
Deadline opens Tape One, setting the harsh, jagged tone. There are sirens, unison vocals that make the words sound like a chant, and the impression given is of a brand new cult announcing themselves in no uncertain terms. They don't quite sustain the pace thereafter, but then it could be reasonably argued that everything you ever needed to know about Death Grips was contained in Guillotine. The titles on Tape One are all one-word with the sole exception of closer Dar – Eh Da Da Du, conveying a sense of pithy urgency and brevity, as though what Young Fathers have to communicate can be boiled down to a simple essence. It's not entirely clear what their worldview is but it could perhaps be reduced to "dystopian with humour". Things get murky on Romance, which is so full of cloudy tricknology it's hard to tell where the sample (from Bob Marley?) ends and the original music begins. Remains is also slow and sorrowful, with a creepy lyric ("Tonight, I decompose"), but as ever clever production, a steady military beat, a chanty refrain and a blissed-out rap that recalls PM Dawn ensure there are always things to hook the listener in. Maybe, for all the noise and effects, they are pop after all.
- The Guardian