It all started as a joke; a suggestion on Twitter that people should go out and send “Pow”, arguably grime’s premier posse cut (and certainly its most famous), to the top of the Christmas charts in the UK. Lethal Bizzle – the man who enjoyed top billing on the original track – couldn’t have predicted the reaction to his comment, but at least he was smart enough to harness its power and set about recording an updated version straight away.
Problem is, he rushed it.
“Pow 2011” is still pretty good – P Money, Wiley, and Ghetts absolutely kill their verses – but it’s not hard to listen to it and think about how much better it could have been. Kano completely fluffs his bars (and takes 16 to everybody else’s 8 too), JME’s attempts at singing are just awkward, and Chipmunk brags about having written “Oopsy Daisy” – trust me son, that’s the kind of thing you should be letting people forget. Most worryingly, it just feels like, for the most part, everybody is trying to upstage all the other MCs on the track – Face, especially, taints his own verse by doing this, as do JME, Chipmunk, and Kano, and even Lethal B’s chorus, noticeably more aggressive than the original, just sounds like he’s trying to shout over the crowd. As if that wasn’t disappointing enough, it’s even been revealed that some MCs were denied a spot on the track because they took too long to get their verses in – well, if it got them a Tempa T, a Maxsta, or a D Double E, they should have waited, to be honest. Chipmunk and Kano were just never going to succeed over this beat. It’s not their style.
The last thing it really needed to compound that disappointment was a video with a bunch of hungry unknowns tearing the track up. Especially if they’re from that most well-known of grime hotspots: south Wales.
People have always over-stated the idea of rappers needing to be desperate for success to be brilliant – I mean, nobody in that video looks like they can’t afford to feed themselves, do they? – but it’s crazy how much difference there is between Kano’s lazy verse on the official remake and the verses by Brighty, J Dot, Fatal, and Dee Shae on this version. Kano’s probably a better MC than any of them individually (and none of these Welsh MCs will really prove otherwise until they cut a track as great as “Ps and Qs”), but they sound like they’re rapping because they’re fired up, because they love what they do. Kano – and Chipmunk, and even the usually great JME to an extent – sound like they’re just showing up to cash a cheque. There’s no great affinity between all the different egos flying around the track, yet the Official Hood Remix is very clearly intended as a showcase not for the individuals, but for Wales itself. That puts it much closer to the spirit of the original than the disjointed official remake.
There’ll probably be better reworkings of the “Pow 2011” beat coming out in the next few months, but this Welsh missive has struck a chord with me. It’s the unfiltered hunger, the drive, that does it; it reminds me why I started listening to grime in the first place.