T-Love Long Way Back

T-Love’s b-girl credentials are impeccable. Aside from being an MC, she’s been a journalist and editor at URB, writing about the music and an entrepreneur having released Jurassic 5’s critically-acclaimed debut EP on her own Pickininny imprint. Nothing revokes props quicker than a whack album though and it’s been a number of years since her Return of the B-Girl EP. But with Long Way Back, she can stake a claim to having issued one of the best hip-hop releases of the year. Living in the UK while making this record, T-Love clearly found a fertile creative space to draw on her multi-tasking experiences. She starts off Long Way Back with a warning shot of the creativity ahead with "Swing Malindy,” a track evoking a smoky jazz club atmosphere, with T-Love impressively holding down the vocal chores. When T-Love gets down to MCing, her successful tactic is to focus on storytelling often from an autobiographical point of view and expanding to deliver thought-provoking commonalities. "When You’re Older” deals with the often overlooked politics of black hair and "Fortress,” ably produced by Toronto’s own Frankenstein, explores her spirituality. Yet the cautionary story of a wayward woman on the resolutely funky "Who Smoked Sunshine” shows she’s capable of stepping out of the personal realm. That track among a handful of others are helmed by beat maestro Jay Dee, who along with associate Dwele and Herbaliser’s Ollie Teeba, provide a soulful yet minimalist feeling to the proceedings that augments but never overshadows T-Love’s wit and wisdom. Over the duration, T-Love hardly puts a foot wrong, delivering a conceptually solid, lyrically rich head-nodder. "B-girls don’t fall down,” is the refrain on the clever wrath-invoking "Witch-Bitch?” but the phrase really applies to this whole impressive record. (Astralwerks)