Drum ‘n’ Bass is great to dance to, but the music itself seems so impersonal and distant – or at least it did until Lyric On My Lip, the album named after the single from 2002, came out. New Zealander Natalia Scott – or Tali as she’s known – has brought story and soul to an otherwise machine-based genre.
That’s not to say that the beats disappoint, of course. How could they, with Roni Size handling much of the production, and guests including MC Dynamite and assorted other heavyweight Drum ‘n’ Bass superstars? Opener ‘Blazin’ and number two ‘Gonna Catch You’ are stomping tracks that come out with (sorry) guns blazing. ‘Pressure Release’ seems like more traditional Drum ‘n’ Bass, with just a couple of lines looped over and over the beats. Meanwhile, ‘Soul Starz’ demonstrates Tali’s hip-hop and NZ roots through use of shout-outs to her chosen stars – King Kapisi, Che Fu, Concord Dawn and Shapeshifter set over menacing waves. What really sets this album a cut above the rest, though, are the stories mingled in with the sound. ‘Lyric’ is full of imagery tracing Tali’s journey from Taranaki to Melbourne and then (via a quick mc-spree in Size’s ear at a Reprazent gig one night) to Bristol.
Tali is a great MC but she’s also a great singer, and surprisingly it’s on the least danceable tracks that she really shines. ‘Airport Lounge’ combines rapping with singing over break-beats to tell the story of leaving a lover behind to pursue her dreams. ‘Gray Dayz’, arguably the best song on the album, is so full of longing – “I’m a slip of a girl wanting to smother your skin” – that the track stays in the head long after it is over.
Tali’s lyrical depth certainly makes a nice change from the standard MC “big ups selecta” nonsense, and the tunes are vibrant and energizing. Lyric On My Lip is an almost-masterpiece that would be made complete if only ‘Do You Remember’, her jazzy collaboration with SUV, was included.