So Solid Crew They Don't Know

For some reason, garage is huge in the UK but has continually failed to make much of an impact here in North America. Anyone can throw a two-step beat behind their music and become a success because of it (cases in point are Daniel Bedingfield, Craig David and *NSync), but there are two main acts that are making this underground movement a mainstream smash hit. So Solid Crew is a collective of 25 that blends R&B and hip-hop to make their own urban brand of garage interesting. Though their brushes with the law may overshadow their chart success (two members have been arrested in the past year and there have been numerous gang-related shootings at their live shows), the group is definitely as talented as they are infamous. The 20 tracks on They Don't Know may seem like a lot at first, but the album moves so quickly that it becomes a breeze to listen to. Sure, the egos are outrageously inflated and the guns are blazing but tracks like the ruckus-inducing "21 Seconds" and the soul-bearing "In My Life" are truly special sounds unlike any other on the charts. The other garage hope, the Streets, is unlike So Solid in size (being one man named Mike Skinner), but similar in the way he embraces urban culture. Original Pirate Material is even more diverse than They Don't Know, exploring elements of jazz, ska, funk and ragga, as well as hip-hop, including consistent rhyming over the beats. What stands out the most is Skinner's unique Anglo-style of rapping; using distinct accents and everyday British life as his subject matter instead gold chains and glocks. Folks are calling this the future of dance music, and with that prediction you get the same feeling from eight years ago when the same was being said about drum & bass. Since drum & bass seems to have fizzled in the dance spotlight, it may just be a matter of time for this brand of garage, but look into this while it's hot, because it will get you going. (Independiente)