The Herbaliser/Various Herbal Blend

The incredible Solid Steel series keeps rolling like a musical hurricane as we’re blessed with the second dose of Ninja mixology this year. With the blunted duo of the Herbaliser taking control of the ship this time around, we’re treated to an unsurprisingly large dose of hip-hop and funk, all laced together through mash-ups and slick mixing, which is becoming essential for the Solid Steel adventure. Herbal Blend definitely has the most presence of the artists at hand so far in the series, with the Herbaliser throwing many of their instrumentals into the mix and reworking past a cappella vocals and pairing them up with new beats. This works best near the beginning as Rakaa from Dilated Peoples gets his previously upbeat and cartoonish “Verbal Anime” lyrics laid down on top of Charles Bernstein’s instrumental epic “Laying the Trap,” thus creating a very sinister-sounding vibe to start off the show. One of the highlights includes a tribute to Jam Master Jay by cramming together Run DMC’s classic “Sucker MC’s” with another hip-hop notable, Jay Dee’s “Fuck the Police,” and all strung together through various scratch acrobatics to pay respect to the late DJ pioneer. The biggest treat has to be the return of What What, now better known as Jean Grae, as the incredibly gifted MC spits a freestyle with the Herbs for the first time since they put her on the map years ago. Though the reunion is short, they still manage to capture that enjoyable essence that helped develop both acts when they were relatively new. Sadly things get a little tiresome as the mix winds down and the duo works in the annoying “Tilt” by Arcade Funk and let the record play long enough to make you not pay attention any longer. It doesn’t help that they follow this with John Lydon whining over the otherwise brilliant “The Missing Suitcase” to seal up the mix and say goodnight. Herbal Blend is a fantastic mix with just a couple of hiccups, but given the foundation laid by DJ Food, DK and Hexstatic in the previous volumes, plus the awesome expectations of a Herbaliser mix, this had the potential of being the best of them yet. (Ninja Tune)