The Swing Ting MC, backed by beatmakers like Equiknoxx, Finn and Sinjin Hawke, delivers an accomplished first album.
Any fan of Manchester's Swing Ting knows Fox. A stalwart of the city's scene, he's appeared frequently as a guest vocalist across the label's releases, and often hosts Swing Ting showcases. When performing live—as is the case with many great MCs—he's the glue holding it all together. This is down, in part, to his cheeky sense of humour, but also his versatility. He is not a man to be held down to one style, and indeed how could he be? Swing Ting has a sound, but no specific genre to speak of other than bass-heavy party tunes. You're equally likely to be raving to speed garage, dancehall or classic R&B at one of their raves. Having appeared on drum & bass labels like Critical and Soul:R, Fox can handle anything the DJs throw at him.
A chunk of Fox's first album, Juice Flow, finds him in full-on party mode. "Poseidon Ride" is a garage-tinged peak-time anthem with vocals to match, where Fox and MC RTKal swap bars to a typically anthemic beat from Sinjin Hawke. On "Rebel Souljah," he ramps up the speed of his flow while maintaining his masterful control and delivery. But Juice Flow isn't made purely of rowdy club tracks. "Unicorns And Uniforms" shows Fox as an able singer and lyricist. The track bleakly surveys the state of the world as he laments the criminal justice system and the world it creates around it. On "Lost & Found," he deals with themes of isolation and identity to a spacious beat from the flex dance music pioneer Epic B.
The dream team of producers on Juice Flow elevates the record. "Somewhere In Poland," produced by Gavsborg of Equiknoxx, ranks among the best tracks in the Jamaican group's catalogue. On "Walk Away," Gavsborg's musical partner Time Cow opts for a moody, dubbed-out beat, featuring another member of the Equiknoxx family, Shanique Marie, on guest vocals. Fox also enlists several emerging talents from the north of England, including Toddla T and Sharda. Anz's steel drums on "Live Life" prove she's as adaptable a producer as she is a DJ. Finn pairs driving percussion, typical of many of his tracks, with a pensive synth line to great effect on "Brighter Dayz."
Whether they're making dancehall, UK funky or bassline, the producers on Juice Flow tend to work within the experimental end of those styles. Wisely, these elements have been toned down. Too much producer-led indulgence could have resulted in Juice Flow seeming like a mixtape or compilation. Instead, the result feels like an artist album. But as well as showcasing Fox himself, Juice Flow highlights an international scene all tied to one of the UK's best labels and parties. Fox opens the album with the lines, "Out to my day ones and my day twos / Shout to my bredrins and my stay trues." It's easy to imagine he's talking about everyone involved here.
Tracklist01. Day Ones
02. Poseidon Ride feat. RTKal
03. Juice Flow
04. Unicorns And Uniforms
05. Somewhere In Poland
07. Rebel Souljah feat. Coco
08. Brighter Dayz
09. Walk Away feat. Shanique Marie
10. Lost & Found
12. (Norf) West
13. Live Life