Music

Monkey Minds In The Devil's Time

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Steve Mason

Steve Mason's superb second solo album sees him make a welcome return to a more experimental style that characterised his former combo the Beta Band. It also reveals deep anger at the current political situation. Mason's melancholic and troubled introspection is still present - now shot through with a new hopefulness - with the tail end of this 20-track album containing his most politically overt lyrics to date.

Freedom of Speech

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Speech Debelle

UK hip hop (and its 130 beats per minute cousin grime) rarely gets the coverage or support it deserves. While many people know of Katy B, few know of the Brixton hip hop collective, The Illersapiens, she originally sang with.

Artists such as Ty, Jehst and Roots Manuva have been honing their craft for years with very little profile. Back in 2008 Estelle said in a Guardian interview there is "blindness to black talent" in the UK music industry. Plan B recently vented his frustration that "people are prejudiced towards hip hop".

Evolve or Be Extinct

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Wiley

In a homemade video from 2003, on a rooftop now close to Stratford's Olympic site, 15 members of London's grime scene came together to perform for a pirate radio station. The video, often shaky and at times blurred, now has over a million views on YouTube and resembles a roll-call for grime music's hall of fame. While Tinchy Stryder and Dizzee Rascal are now global superstars, the equally talented MC Crazy Titch is now serving a life sentence for murder. In the middle of it all is Wiley - often referred to as the "Godfather of Grime".

Area 52

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Rodrigo y Gabriela and C.U.B.A.

Following on from their popular album, 11:11, Rodrigo y Gabriela's forceful fast-paced riffing style returns in what can only be described as a funk-filled full-orchestral waltz, following in the footsteps of their Latin American jazz-funk lineage. If that's too much of a mouthful to swallow, you really shouldn't attempt to recite the names of the 13 members of Havana's finest collective, known as C.U.B.A., who have helped to make this new album an aural sensation.

4everevolution

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Roots Manuva

It has been over three years since Slime and Reason, the album that placed Rodney Smith (Roots Manuva) at the forefront of British hip hop. His new album, the imaginatively titled 4everevolution, does not disappoint. At first glance an album with 17 tracks can seem quite hard going. It is testimony to the diversity and range of his music that 17 tracks later and nearly an hour in I was still listening with bated breath.

Brother Ali tour

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Brother Ali opens his most famous tune, Uncle Sam Goddamn, with an invitation into his USA: "Welcome to the United Snakes/Land of the thief, home of the slave".

In this song Ali relentlessly lays bare the contradictions of the American dream by turning it into a nightmare, guiding the audience through the hypocritical self-representation of the world's "imperial guard".

Ali, who will be performing in London this month, is part of a new generation of political hip hop artists. Miles away from the bling of the mainstream, he stands in the poetic tradition of Talib Kweli or Mos Def, with the hard hitting politics and personal accounts of Immortal Technique or Vinnie Paz.

Let England Shake

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PJ Harvey

Last month PJ Harvey won the Mercury Prize for her latest album, Let England Shake. She was the first woman to win the prize back in 2001, is the first artist to win it twice and has won it with an album that is determinedly anti-war.

Taking Iraq and Afghanistan as her starting point, this a departure from the deeply personal explorations of her albums to date. Harvey has said she wanted to write this album for years but has waited until she had the writing skills to do it.

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