Staff Writers



Hip-hop has spread like an airborn virus. Not for a long time has it been the province of a select coterie of producers from Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan. The diehard old-school hip-hop purist might argue against the validity of 'regional hip-hop' (itself a reductive and pejorative term), but undeniably, the infection has spread, and it has vectors in nearly every country in the world. The production techniques – sampled loops, electronic drum patterns – have been bent, broken and re-made by a horde of producers and emcees from beyond the five boroughs, from the party-time crunk of the Dirty South to the edgy, jazz-inflected gangsterisms of the Paris Banne Lieus, hip-hop is undeniably international in its reach and appeal.

One of the consequences of this – particularly if you are one of the few people who embrace regional hip-hop – is that no matter how well-informed and committed a head you think you are, there is always a scene, a band or an emcee who you have overlooked. With the proliferation of underground music as a whole that the internet age has wrought, it is hip-hop in particular which is completely universal, albeit sometimes hidden in some pretty far-flung, shady corners.

One such treasure trove of talent that we here at Weaponizer have only recently come to be aware of is the collective output of the Plague Language label. Coming out of the small but overwhelmingly talented hotspot of Guelph, Ontario, these Canadian emcees and producers have a tight, prolific and mercilessly experimental body of work behind them already, and are moving into 2010 with a whole host of projects and collaborations lined up.

Founded by rapper / producer Noah 23, the label specialises in diversity, with its mainstays (Madadam, Baracuda, Livestock One, among others) rhyming over indie guitars, hefty breakbeats, jungle rhythms and more traditional jazz and boom-bap beats. The PL style of rhyming – a hypercolour, turbo-charged collage of words and images, as pioneered by founder Noah 23 – has breathed new life into a genre that has (at least in the mainstream) become somewhat unoriginal, formulaic, and full of copyists.

The PL crew sound like no-one else in the global hip-hop scene – some tracks could be described as a more dance-oriented (but still arty as hell) cousin of the Anticon sound, but where Anticon are experimental and often obtuse, PL display a deft line in double-time rapping and a keen ear for a pop hook. Equal parts psychedelic, innovative and slickly attractive, they are perhaps the most crossover-worthy of the North American indie hip-hop labels. As such, the length of time it took us to come across them is somewhat embarrassing for us!

The 2009 compilation recently unleashed by the label covers some of their biggest tracks to date, from the exquisite, mescaline-soaked psychedelia of Noah 23 and Madadam's Nebula – which features some of the most arcane and elegant wordplay ever put on wax, in our opinion – to the spastic dancefloor attack of the Pavement-quoting Crystal Palace. There are weaker moments, but as a small taste of the massively prolific PL crew's recent endeavors, it is literally brimming with quality and innovation.

So how did we overlook Plague Language for so long? Hard to say. But we definitely remember the day fellow Black Lantern Music label-head Harlequinade dropped this into the WeaponLabs CD player with a chuckle, and uttered the prophetic words: “You're gonna fucking love this.”

We did. It's awesome. The emcees rhymes have wormed their way into our collective brain and taken hold. We keep muttering 'Negative integer, crystal skull umbrella' at strangers we pass on the street. There's no doubt we're infected. Do yourself a favour – catch the disease.

The Plague Language compilation is out soon, available here. Check the Plague Language MySpace for details. Also... download this and thank us later.

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