Young Fathers: Old Heads, Young Shoulders

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source: Young Fathers

JUICE remembers the glory – or ignominious, depending on your hip hop taste – days of Anticon as an abstract white boy rap label. This was the indie record label that housed the likes of Alias, Sole, Why?, Sage Francis, and Doseone, names synonymous with what at one point was (erroneously, in our opinion) described as “the hip hop equivalent of post-rock” and “avant garde hip hop.” That was then, Anticon has since expanded to everything from indie rock to electronica – even some of the original lineup has more or less evolved outside of hip hop.

So when Scottish trio Young Fathers seemingly got signed by the label out of nowhere – allegedly due to the internet’s busiest music nerd Anthony Fantano’s ( glowing review of their mixtape, Tape One – it marked their return to something that can be immediately identified as hip hop. Make no mistake though, Young Fathers are anything but your regular UK rap.

Had the Native Tongue Movement found foothold among the immigrant community in Edinburgh, and made by their children who grew up making music in a dank basement, you’d get the dystopic, native sounds of Young Fathers. The tribal, African influences are filtered through a lo-fi sound that is heavy on synthesisers, yet the group never lost their cultural eye despite their forward thinking music. Much like Shabazz Palaces, they are the natural progression of the D.A.I.S.Y Age post-Def Jux (and yes, Anticon too).

Impressive still, while Shabazz is fronted by the artiste formerly known as Butterfly of Digable Planets fame, Young Fathers are made of a trio of youngins in their mid-20s – Alloysius, Kayus, and G. Our incredulous reaction to their maturity is also how they conceived their name – these guys had been sounding older than they were since they were 16.  As Alloysius himself says; “To people our age, it was too mature or too wordy, for me, it was ‘old heads on young shoulders’.”

Perhaps this was due to their upbringing, Alloysius was born in Liberia but had lived in Scotland since he was 4 and a half, Nigerian migrants brought up Kayus, while G was raised in Drylaw, the seedier side of Edinburgh. There are not much background that you can find on them, but based on those few facts alone, it’s not hard to imagine that they must have went through some struggles in their lives. When have migrants been treated fairly in the UK? When they chanted “Don’t you turn my home against me/Even if my house is empty” over lo-fi tribal drums and sirens at the end of ‘Deadline’ (off Tape One), vague as the line is, it is still obviously an immigrant anthem.

Elsewhere, Young Fathers show that they can go hard. ‘Rumbling’ is an adrenaline-inducing, fist-pumping hip hop track typically graced with braggadocious lyrics, here the trio opted to continue with their wordy abstraction instead. While not technically gifted, the group is much more concerned about the poetry in rap, which is perfectly fine when every syllable uttered is intoned with much importance. This lyrical conviction is displayed when they choose to sing as well, such is on the reggae and dub-influenced ‘Romance’ (well, they are from the UK after all).

The sequel to Tape One, Tape Two, sees release this 11 June ’13 on Anticon. Based on the morose lead single ‘I Heard’, their conviction is chiselled to perfect emotionality and their beats are formfitting; less noisy, more atmospheric in its tribal drums-synths combo. We are excited to hear what the rest of the album will sound like.

Young Fathers’ follow up to Tape One, Tape Two, will be released physically on Anticon. More on the trio at