French rapper extraordinaire MC OneSP recently released an impressively energetic collection of collaborative hip-hop tracks spanning his career in France and the UK over the past decade and beyond.
Extracted from long-buried cassettes and mini discs, some thought lost, the album is a heady sonic trip through some incredible studio sessions, featuring some influential names for those familiar with the bustling late 90s Edinburgh hip-hop culture, and even the formative years of Big Dada.
OneSP, with the help of boutique Glasgow label This Is Not Pop, compiles these hidden gems in the order he found them, minimally tampered with. The sure studio hand of Gareth Bury, aka Asthmatic Astronaut, is apparent in the presentation of the collection, which finds a home on his buzzing short-run imprint.
Through these productions, the listener can hear as OneSP discovers his particular creative zone, located in a sense of spontaneity and improvisation. This is hip-hop borne of street cyphers, freestyle sessions and late-night, smoked-out clashes. As the recordings progress, the stability of his identity as a rapper and poet emerges, revealing bags of charm, eccentricity and humour on each recording.
His sharp intellect is contrasted with some very silly wordplay, which bursts energetically through in synchronization with his collaborators. A diverse MC, OneSP is a lyrical chameleon, adapting vocal styles to changing beat dynamics, swinging easily between hip-hop’s touchstones in jazz, funk and dub.
This creative self-awareness reverberates throughout, and the whole album delivers slice after slice of unity, head-nodding beats and just sheer fun. Producers and vocalists who bring their own distinct styles to the table include collaborators such as ragga hip-hop legend Toastie Tailor of New Flesh, with whom OneSP collaborated before they became the first band to sign to Big Dada.
Elsewhere, appearances from Edinburgh alt-hip-hop lumiaries like Mikel Krumins of Abdominal Showmen, and Lifeshows of Underling will cause gasps of recognition from those in the know. Sterling production from the likes of Ben Seal, Jatin Purin, DJ Red 6, Salam Anders and of course Asthmatic Astronaut keep things varied, and always enthralling.
This impressive collection is a time travel adventure – a narrative snapshot of OneSP’s creative exploration, aesthetic and artistic interactions from a little-known but much-admired era of Edinburgh’s underground hip-hop culture to the present day.
Within the gaps of these recordings, OneSP traces the steps of his journey from the south of France, where his peers often taunted him for being a mere poet, rather than a macho MC, to finding his creative identity here in Scotland, and building his very own family unit, both in his personal life, and in his creative circle of friends.
Meant to be released in celebration of OneSP’s 12th anniversary as an adopted Scot, the fact we had to wait until 20 had passed only makes this compilation more of a delight. To the first-time listener, what difference does time make? These tracks still vibrate with the urgency of now, even when they call back to lost eras.
Affiliated with music collective the Black Lantern Clan in the mid-2010s, OneSP threw down an in-depth interview earlier in the month with label founder Texture, on his newly-minted Scottish hip-hop radio show for Radio Kaos Caribou.
RR caught up with Texture to ask about the interview: “Interviewing onesp for the radio show reminded me just what a tremendous rapper he is.” On the evidence of these two decades, even that would be an understatement.