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Friday, April 27, 2012

"21 Seconds"

So Solid Crew - "21 Seconds" (2001)

The Winstanley Estate, a working class and public housing area in Battersea, London was the home of the majority of the So Solid Crew.

In November 1993 the Wu-Tang Clan released their classic debut album Enter the Wu-Tang(36 Chambers) to huge critical and commercial success. It introduced a nine person hip hop collective to the world, and it influenced the genre both lyrically and production wise. In 2001 So Solid Crew boiled all of that down to about five minutes introducing ten members of a enormous UK garage crew and helping to  influence the UK hip hop scene years after the single came out. This track owes the most to track #6 "Da Mystery of Chessboxin" from the Wu-Tang album. The Crew was very underground and this song broke them into the mainstream. The video is a cross between a Soul Train line and a Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome/WWE cage match.

The song title, and many of the lyrics deal with the fact that each of the members of the crew that take a verse gets about 21 seconds to shine in the spotlight. Each of the verses are very similar. Most of them introduce themselves, mention how they only have 21 seconds, discuss the Crew and how tough they are and then mention something about the area they live in also being tough. It's fairly formulaic but each of them takes a slightly different approach. Most of them employ a repetition of their own lines, which seems like an odd choice considering how fast their time goes by but it is internally consistent with the song itself being repetitive.

The music sounds like it could have been produced entirely on a 'My First Casio Keyboard', which is part of the early UK garage scene. The drum hits all sound electronic, the electronic piano and electronic bass sounds are clearly made by keyboards on very basic settings, not at all trying to sound like acoustic instruments and reveling in their digitized sound. The selling point of this song is definitely hearing all the different MCs. I particularly like Face's, whose verse begins "/Some a them are slippin a/Some a them a grudge me a/So Solid vampire/". And Harvey's which starts "/Every lyric I do/Every lyric I say/Every lyric I rock/Every lyric I play/. Each one is different and worth listening to. Many members of the Crew went on to successful UK celebrity, most in music, but at least one actor. Unfortunately, like all large groups, not everyone can have success. The violence surrounding the underground scene brought many of the members down, and at least one is serving very hard time for murder. 

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