Review Summary: Na Na Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii
There always seems to be that one British pop star who’s sole purpose in life it is to make newspaper headlines for all the wrong reasons; resulting in massive record sales for said artist regardless of their actual musical ability. In recent years, we’ve had Pete Doherty, labeled a troubled genius by much of the British musical hierarchy, and Amy Winehouse, whose records were acclaimed by many whilst others wallowed in dismay at her refusal to compete in the Grand National. Whilst these more recent artists have often been looked upon as highly credible artists in their own right, Britain has a new troubled star to deal with and his name is Dappy.
What sets Dappy apart from the crowd is that he isn’t an indier-than-thou hipster, nor is he a skilled crooner whose vintage approach is refreshing in the modern age. No, Dappy is a chav who would look more at home smashing windows and drinking cheap cider in a Camden council estate than fronting one of the nation’s leading hip hop acts. And it is for this reason that so many people are resentful of Dappy’s N-Dubz, for so few above the age of 14 are able to look beyond the outlandish and yob-like behaviour of the group’s members.
With their second outing, N-Dubz take all the best elements of their debut LP and build upon them. Whilst nothing innovative by any stretch of the imagination, Beyond All Odds is an album that offers a range of solid beats and enough versatility so as not to become monotonous, as is all too often the case with much of the current British hip hop scene. The rapping ability of the group’s two male members is nothing beyond what has come to be expected by such an artist, showcasing a capability to rhyme at high speeds when called upon, and exchanging vocals fluently and efficiently. What sets N-Dubz apart from the crowd, however, are the female vocals of Tulisa Contostavlos. Undoubtedly the show stealer, Tulisa demonstrates a fantastic vocal range and power on multiple occasions as well as blending tactfully with the rapping styles of the group’s other members.
The songwriting on display is also somewhat impressive when looked upon in a respectable circumstance. Given that the group is of the current movement of commercial British hip hop, Against All Odds offers a number of appealing tracks that range from chart ready anthems to more withdrawn heartfelt ballads, all of which stand head and shoulders above their peers. Of course, the fact that the album is self produced adds a dimension of freedom to the work which is evident throughout, allowing for some experimentation and an ‘outside the box’ approach to come into play at times, which can only be a good thing given the genre at hand.
That is not to say that N-Dubz do not come up short at times however. The lyrics are horrible really and most notably, Dappy appears to have an obsession with the phrase ‘na na niiiiiiiiiii[ne]’. For those of you who have listened to Jason Derulo’s album (yes I’m sure you exist), imagine if Jason hadn’t gotten tired of introducing each track with his own name on every song by track 5, and had just continued for the whole album, even going as far as to integrating the phrase into the actual songs on some occasions. That is what Dappy has done with this little slice of musical majesty, creating a highly annoying (yet somewhat incredibly memorable) trademark of his own. Furthermore, the second half of the record is considerably weaker than the earlier half. Whilst the album has spawned a number of singles with great playback value, each of those singles have been taken from the first half of the album, whilst the latter part is overrun by unnecessary filler and skits about having sex with drunken girls and sparking out w***ers.
Nevertheless, N-Dubz’s second release is very much fit to purpose and succeeds in pushing the (somewhat small) boundaries of the genre and cements the group’s status as the champions of the current scene. A lot of promise has been fulfilled whilst a lot more still remains, and should N-Dubz progress in their third release at a rate similar to which they have shown here, the next album could be something bloody well fantastic.