Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The Criminal Minds "Urban Warfare" (from the "Guilty As Charged" mini-LP) (TCM Records, 1990)

OK, this is probably the rarest record I own. I'm going to base that on the fact that I've been offered up to £500 to sell it. I've refused. ( I must be mad)

This is the first, self-produced and self-released record from legendary UK Hip-Hop crew The Criminal Minds. From 1992 onwards, they found a considerable measure of success releasing breakbeat hardcore (tunes such as "The Criminal" and "Baptised By Dub" are as definitive of the Rave era as it's possible to get.) However, when they first started, they were very much a straight hip-hop outfit. It's not to difficult to see the leap they made from hip-hop to hardcore: the BPM's sped up, the breaks were pushed to the fore, the raps pushed back a little, the scratches and samples took precedence over the production. Yet, they never lost touch with their hip-hop roots either: later tracks such as "Toxic Culture" (from the "Joyrider" EP) show they were as much influenced by The Bomb Squad as they were by any of their other Hardcore contemporaries.

But the one record by The Criminal minds that everyone seems to covet is this EP. TCM were, at the time a nascent hip-hop crew based in Buckingham, just outside Milton Keynes. At their core were two DJ's, Spatts and Halo. This mini-LP was recorded on a 4-track in Spatt's bedroom, and was financed by Spatts selling his Technics decks and pulling in favours from friends. There must have been loads of people involved in supporting the band up to this point, most of them are thanked in a special track on the second side of the LP "shout outs", and there's dozens of them! Despite the fact it was recorded on comparatively primitive equipment, the tracks are incredibly powerful, and intricately constructed. The scratching is razor-sharp, the beats crisp, the rapping febrile and full of energy. "Guilty As Charged" (AFAIK) remains a "Holy Grail" for collectors of early UK hip-hop, as it functions as a perfect snapshot of the development of hip-hop in this country at the time. This is what it was like. 500 copies were pressed, with most being sold privately to friends. Few made it into shops. I love this tune to bits (that bit where the Star Wars sample comes in - just PERFECT!) and won't be parted from it. Please don't ask me to post up the rest of this EP, you're just getting this one tune. Hope that's OK. Enjoy.

The Criminal Minds - "Urban Warfare" (mp3)