- As far as grime goes, Flowdan is about as old-school as they come. He was there as a part of Pay As U Go Cartel, back when grime was still garage, and he's a founding member of the seminal Roll Deep crew. And yet it's his ongoing collaboration with The Bug that's elevated his visibility, especially as one of the two MCs—and provider of the hook—on that producer's breakout dubstep hit "Skeng." You can hear Flowdan's distinctive, resonant rumble of a voice on lots of different releases, but Disaster Piece is only Flowdan's second album, following Original Dan in 2009 for Wiley's Eskibeat label and 2014's Hyperdub EP.
The much-anticipated Disaster Piece is a mixed bag, its biggest, most distracting problem being backup singer Animai. Her clear tones are prominent on four of the first five tracks and offer little in the way of personality or energy, sounding better suited for a worldbeat record. The second major issue is the beat selection. An MC with Flowdan's history should have access to bigger names—as seen on his other releases—but for whatever reasons, almost all of these productions come from relative unknowns or up and comers, which takes its toll. (Masro contributes four tracks, and the highest profile input comes from Dexplicit and Kryptic Minds.) Between all of the backing vocals and Kryptic Minds' cringeworthy guitar-based production on "Judgement," the first half of the album is a slog. But it's not without its virtues: Flowdan spitting double-time for one bar in "Judgement" was a moment of pure vocal flair, and "Groundhog"'s cautionary tale of a prison sentence is an unusually compelling narrative.
Starting with track six, "Flatline," things get better and closer to what Flowdan does best: underground grime. Whether it's the liquid dancehall synths and half-time stagger of Commodo's "Flatline," the stoned ode to weed "Bob Marley," the contrast of Manga's strident bars against Flowdan's omimous deepness in "Dons & Divas," Dexplicit's symphonic swagger on "Grime" or Tinchy Stryder's bouncy flow next to an urgent Flowdan on "Gunfingers," the second half of Disaster Piece has more swing and intensity—and it feels more honest.
Flowdan has enough talent and vocal flexibility as an MC to carry an entire album, but his calling means that he'll always need the help of producers. And when it comes to grime producers, there are two kinds: those who simply make music and those who act as creative directors, getting involved with collaborators, arrangements and often more. Judging from the unevenness of Disaster Piece, he needs both.
01. Chosen feat. Animai
03. Curtain Call feat. Animai
04. Groundhog feat. Animai
05. No Way Out feat. Animai
07. Bob Marley
08. Dons & Divas feat. Animai
09. Gunfingers feat. Tinchy Stryder
11. Horror Show Style