Release: Chapter II
Release Date: 6th May 2013
Benga is back. ‘Chapter II’ is here and is his biggest installment in many ways. Benga has always been a high ranking pioneer of the modern electric music scene and it is his third album, on the back of ‘Newstep’ and ‘Afro Warrior’, which doesn’t disappoint. One of the first things to note about the album is the fact that the combination of soothing female vocals and classic brutal Benga beats make for a beautiful yet infectious tune, which is proven in tracks such as ‘Smile’, ‘Higher’ and ‘Waiting‘. Vocals were provided by relatively unheard of artists such as Autumn Rowe and Happiness, but they fit into the album perfectly.
The album was produced from late 2011 to 2013, and after hearing samples of tracks like ‘Running’ and ‘Choose 1′ on Skream and Benga‘s Friday night BBC Radio 1 show, it’s a pleasure to finally hear the finished pieces as they more than live up to expectation. Benga often performs live with MC Youngman and his vocals are a welcome addition to the albums contribution. Another MC who I was happy to see on board was Grime legend Kano. You really feel as if you are seeing the very best from two of the UK’s homegrown sounds in Grime and Dubstep on Kano and Benga’s collaboration track ‘Forefather‘, which is the third single from the album, following ‘I Will Never Change‘ and ‘To Hell and Back‘. “I Will Never Change” is the album’s lead single; the track was the first to be written on the album, and its upload on UKF has over one and a half million Youtube views, which says a lot about the quality of the music that Benga is putting out at the moment.
The best thing to take away from the album is the fact that this is classic Benga with a touch of modern flair. A track which showcases this perfectly is my personal highlight: ‘To Hell and Back’. Its dark atmosphere is reminiscent of old school Dubstep tunes, but it has the brutality and pace of modern day mainstream electronic artists such as Skrillex.
Benga slows the pace right down on ‘Click and Tap‘ and ‘Warzone‘, which are technically very good tracks, but their placement on the track list gives a bit of a jarring feel. After the crunching snare drums and massive bass lines on ‘Smile‘, slow tracks like ‘Click and Tap’ seems a bit out of place. The same goes for ‘Warzone‘ following ‘To Hell and Back‘; it’s not a bad track but both could have made for either a nice build up introduction to the album or slow but powerful finishers.
In the long run, these nitpicks don’t take much away from the album as everything else makes up for it. It seems as if Benga wanted to branch out to get the very best from each genre in one big collaboration for this album, and has pulled out all the stops in trying to make it his best album yet. Taking into account the beautiful yet hard hitting basslines combined with the powerful drum patterns and vocals, it’s safe to say Benga is back.