If 2011 has taught the members of #TeamUK anything it’s that the 100 metre race they initially thought they were running is actually as long distance event. The early successes which many had achieved have now become a memory as the pressures to maintain such standards becomes harder. Longevity in music has always been linked to acclaimed albums – and battle rapper-turned-UK phenomenon Professor Green takes on the arduous challenge of producing the ever cited ‘difficult second album’. At Your Inconvenience follows on from a very successful year for the Walthamstow rapper, claiming plaudits both from commercial and specialist platforms. Balancing the two has never been more difficult, so it’s a just matter of whether the professor chooses to favour one of the two markets or remain persistent in creating the anecdote for gratifying both masses.
With us all now becoming familiar with Pro Green’s ‘unique’ humour, it’s not a surprise that the opening title track is an arrangement of barbs at celebs and the latests trends, which have more than a tongue-in-cheek tone to it. Although it’s a trait many clamour for, the execution of the verses (aided by a monotonous production) results in an effort which seems uninspired and somewhat like a throwaway track. Green’s capability of putting words together ensures no lyrical moment fully disappoints, but the quality of “beats” he’s provided with ultimately holds the key to his success.
He finds his first moment of success on the LP embracing the larger musical offerings of TMS and iSHi on the number one charting single “Read All About It” featuring the powerful vocals of emerging Scottish star Emeli Sande. As Pro trudges through a recollection of moments with his deceased father and addresses family issues, adding to the thunderous piano composition and Sande’s moving chorus, he provides assurance that on the grander stage he is able to deliver.
It isn’t until later in the album that such a mood is again explored, hence Pro Green is quick to return to his wittier, cheeky side. Embracing the unpredictable sounds of DnB for “Trouble,” Green’s wry persuasion that he isn’t a worry when it comes to staying faithful is well executed whilst the excellent “Remedy” finds the former JumpOff star taking on a cool two step cut with swiftness and style. Just like last year’s smash “Monster,” whenever the Professor hops onto a more experimental production he comfortably hits his widely observed potential; but it’s when rhyming on a more polished sound that the results are often that of a safe, and at times bland, offering.
The Pixies-sampling “Spinning Out” with singer/songwriter Fink (who also appeared on the impressive “Close The Door”) is a tour diary like account of the glorious heights he has reached, executed delicately thanks to an intimate acoustic guitar score. Whilst this should be received with open arms by many, the Evanescence-sounding “Avalon” treads into moody, emo rock territory which is far from captivating and will leave many scratching their heads as to where such an effort is going.
Although far from being in his comfort zone, what At Your Convenience does show is the maturity of the man born Stephen Manderson. Exploring the darkened alleys where many a heroin addict is found, “Astronaut” is a heart weary, metaphorical depiction of the plight of a young girl due to the fatal drug. Again, Pro Green enthusiasts may not entirely yearn for such material but regardless of so, evidently the growth in the rapper’s penmanship can only mean greater attributes are ahead.
The highlight for many, however, comes not in his chart bound material but in his collaborative effort with the acclaimed Detroit rhymer and long term friend of superstar Eminem, Royce Da 5’9″. With the British rapper constantly being labelled ‘the UK’s Slim Shady’, it’s only fitting that the Slaughterhouse member would work with the rapper if a UK-US pairing were to occur. “Nightmares” is punctuated with many of the traits found in a Bad Meets Evil concoction, as the macabre settings allow Green and Royce to spit without any rules to follow, concluding in a more than decent transatlantic working.
Listen to: Professor Green ft. Royce Da 5’9″ + Kobe – “Nightmares”
Did the 12 month gap between albums provide enough time for the artist to grow significantly? Judging from the material on At Your Convenience, it’s apparent that the award winning rapper has done so. When daring to take the mainstream road which is often reluctantly travelled, Professor Green can and does make well-rounded Hip Hop which captures both the skilled prose of the wordsmith and the crafted sound to appease all listeners. With wisecracks and wordplay aplenty, Green refrains from throwing in the towel on a trademark which got him to lofty heights.
What continues to remain the stumbling blocks are both the inconsistency in musical choices and the concept of Pro Green as a rapper. Green’s ‘beat’ selections go from standard Hip Hop workings to ballads – making the overall listen at times a stuttering experience. When looking to define the UK spitter, Pro’s identity crosses between jester, social commentator and party starter; and although having various guises will ensure a wider outreach, its scattered form makes the listen less smooth and defined. At Your Inconvenience nevertheless achieves its intention of maintaining the Professors status as one of the few mainstays in the UK urban music scene. With a string of bankable hits as well as the natural ability to throw something to the specialists, this second album has proven to be more ‘defining’ than difficult.