When news of a project involving Zed Bias on production and Rodney P and Fallacy on vocals first emerged over two years ago, my inner nerd got excited. Then I heard the first leaked track, “Badungdeng”, which was championed by Benji B, among others, and hopes were high that this inner nerd excitement would not be let down in reality. Fast forward to the summer of 2012 and the Sleepin’ Giantz walk out of their slumber for an album on Tru Thoughts. Zed Bias on the buttons, an originator on the nowadays more popular UK dance music scene, and two of the UK’s finest lyricists on the mic – Rodney P, perhaps now someone who can be considered a statesman of the rap game in the UK, and Fallacy, one of the country’s longer-standing, more underrated MCs, who has always been equally at ease over rap beats as over garage, early grime and more, basically a versatile MC with a flow and tone of voice that make him stand out.
As always with projects involving collaboration between longstanding musical figures, there’s the chance that things won’t live up to expectations and it’ll be cringe-inducing. In that regard Sleepin’ Giantz ride a fine line, partially falling into cringe inducement and avoiding it elsewhere, living up to the combination of its individual members’ reputations and pedigree.
Put it this way: the biggest problem with “Sleepin’ Giantz”, in my opinion, is that it came out in 2012. Had it been released even just two years ago, when the music first started being heard, it would have felt much more appropriate. Unfortunately this isn’t how things work, and the reality is that it’s out now at a time when the sounds on offer – grime, 2step and dubstep-influenced productions from someone who actually helped pioneer and birth some of these genres – feel a tad dated, even if they’re well done. There’s a similar issue with the lyrics at times, with Rodney coming across as a little past-it flow-wise and Fallacy relying on certain short rhymes and patterns we’ve heard before.
Realistically, though, these gripes – formed after listening to the album repeatedly over a few weeks – aren’t enough to make Sleepin’ Giantz unworthy of anyone’s time. It’s just that they can’t be ignored. If, like me, you’re a fan of the three artists’ solo careers, then you should definitely get this on principle alone, and if you’re new to any of them you should get this because they are veterans of various scenes that have helped drive the current popularity of certain strands of club music in the UK and abroad.
Quality-wise, the first half of the 11-track album towers over the rest. The opening theme is straight head nod for the club, fusing the UK’s love of sound system culture, its dance music history and hip hop, as Zed Bias shows his chops with clever use of wobble and break chops while Rodney and Fallacy deliver great vocal introductions, shadowing their guest Fox. Mucky lives up to the name, with some nasty bassline work coupled with alternating stepping drums and Fallacy delivering the album’s first great vocal turn. “Badungdeng” is one of the album’s highlights, a proven club anthem that has aged well primarily because it’s one of the more upbeat cuts, with a sound that is if anything more current than it was two years ago, when the whole bass music thing wasn’t quite as popular as it is now. “And The Ting Went…” is an interesting one: a rap track recounting the same story about a night out clubbing gone wrong recounted from four different points of view – male and female protagonists as well as the bouncer – over a stripped-back club beat. The short “Hand Grenade” is straight throwback to early 00s era Bingo Beats, acting almost as an intro for “Raving Bully”, another club cut inspired by the Bingo Beats era that’s a tad tougher, with lush bassline work aiming straight for the booty. At that point the LP tips into the aforementioned cringe inducement for me, covering similar and additional production ideas including more bro-leaning dubstep and UK Funky-inspired riddims. Appearances from Manchester’s Strategy and Jenna G can’t quite salvage it, though realistically there is bound to be something there for younger, eager listeners.
As a combination of three UK veterans Sleepin’ Giantz may not deliver a total that’s greater than the sum of its parts, however it does offer some great club music that’s both well produced and vocalised. I’m willing to admit that my high expectations and youthful idolising of the MCs are probably the reason why I’m left slightly disappointed – especially by the second half of the album – though that should not stop anyone from checking it out. And you know that live it’ll bang hard.