Y Diwygiad – Hymn 808 (Dockrad)
It’s no fallacy to say that Welsh language hip-hop is not the most lucrative of popular music genres, nor the most popular. But the likes of Y Diwygiad seem intent on proving that this most marginalized of marginalized areas has enough to warrant popular consideration and appreciation. Indeed, there is a tremendous alternative chic to the Welsh language, with the regular leading lights of the Welsh indie canon still racking up album sales and concert tickets quite happily, but the idea of hip-hop in this nation is one still to melt indie’s collective heart. If You’re Playin’ contains the line “we’re in it for the love so fuck all the fame” – a noble and perhaps self-defeating statement.
Artists like MC Sleifar and Tystion found acclaim from Peel and a certain degree of success and prolific status, and their musical templates seem influential here – classic and simple samples provide a simple backbone – but the raps themselves straddle both Welsh and English. Admittedly, an awful lot of the satisfaction is derived from the flow and confusion of the Welsh language sections, and perhaps the fact that most don’t know what’s being related means that it’s steeped in attractive mystery. The English sections are, in comparison, very plain and efficient, maybe even a little simplistic. The silly All Mouth is entertainingly hair-brained (unsurprisingly the beats and noises seem to be all the product of hard spits and tongues), but not as foully funny as it could be – the simple barrier-removal of having it performed in English means that it is maybe too accessible.
When the issue is approached in WENGLISH, emphasis is placed on how universal the whole genre can be. According to the refrain, it’s all “native gibberish saved by hip-hop”. Again, admirable as that is, it doesn’t mask the overt simplicity of some of the statements. A deeper investigation that didn’t resort to blanket statements would have been extremely interesting – as it stands, it’s something of a diverting missed opportunity.
Does the fact that most listeners won’t understand a single word of the Welsh sections mean that those lyrics are naturally cooler than those in English? It must be said that British hip-hop is producing better lyrics than those displayed in Hymn 808, but the verve with which they are delivered is palpable. The backings, too, are functionally fun and sweetly playful in their nature. As if it were a self-fulfilling prophecy, the most entertainment value has to be in the Welsh languages sections. Particularly, the final verses of Tyo Laen Ta are thrillingly projected, at times a capella and constantly fiery. In summation, it’s a constantly contrasting and engaging record, but one wonders whether or not some of the acclaim it receives can’t be properly commented on without complete understanding. The rest remains thoroughly entertaining.
Hymn 808 is available from Dockrad records. More info here.