LEWIS PARKER – “The Variations” (from the album “Word Lab”)
Is Lewis Parker the most interesting hip-hop artist ever brought forward in the UK? He’s certainly the least predictable and the least stereotypical in his reference points, having spent most of his childhood and adolescence moving around Britain, much of the time in Canterbury, so creating a semi-mystical style (don’t let his Star Wars fixation put you off) that comes close to one of the bizarre imaginary prog-rock fusions Momus advocates, and is free from the specifically “urban” reference points that often makes hip-hop (for me, at least) one of the most specifically “geographical” genres surviving, sometimes as much so as folk music. Parker’s breath of experience – from inner London to the area of Kent which once inspired Powell & Pressburger’s A Canterbury Tale has given him a range of reference points beyond the knowledge of most of his contemporaries (it also brought forward an unbelievably patronising NME review, but I think he’d wear his wounds with pride).

“The Variations” is typically effective, Parker’s skills (and he’s an incredible emcee – his phrasing is almost uniquely subtle and expressive) showcased over a minimalistic piano sample that stirs and shimmers (rather than bludgeons or pushes) its way into your mind. It’s an effective climax to a compilation which reveals UK hip-hop the most self-confident and established with its own identity that it has ever been. The 14 tracks here can be anthemic, enjoyably parochial and deeply angry by turns, but we all need our consciously unnatural mystics.