THE MOUSE OUTFIT
- Abdominal and The Obliques
It might not have received the fanfare of other rap shows in the recent past, but this gig is very important. Not only does it stand outside the relative security of Liverpool’s Tuesday hip hop club, but THE MOUSE OUTFIT are an authentic yardstick for the city’s new-found prominence within the genre. We can draw big numbers for big names, but it’s when we recognise and champion the emerging talent that the city can call itself a genuine hip hop hotbed.
The Manchester collective are an up-and-coming local(ish) talent on the cusp of releasing their second album, and they’re backed by a veteran of one of the UK’s most seminal hip hop albums, even if he is from Canada. MC ABDOMINAL played a central role on DJ Format’s Music For The Mature B-Boy, but looks more like a farm boy tonight, perching on what could easily be a milking stool in a cloth cap and waders.
One song may feature the line “I love you hip hop, but we need some time apart”, but a more accurate analogy would have been: “I love you hip hop so let’s bring in some other people to spice up this relationship”. Backing band THE OBLIQUES serve this purpose perfectly, stripping the rhymes back to their common denominator of blues and jazz, while adding a sprinkling of bluegrass upon which Abdominal’s words dance with dexterity. The slide guitar of Broken thrillingly recalls the Breaking Bad theme, and the band fit smoothly behind the DJ Format medley, which is bellowed back with gusto by 80% of the audience.
A simple glance at the album titles will show you the trajectory of The Mouse Outfit. Graduating from Escape Music, latest effort Step Steadier proves their ability to do just that, flourishing outside of the pigeonhole of the latest project of their most famous member, Dr. Syntax. The good doctor is elsewhere tonight, and the job of band leader passes to the absurdly talented Sparkz, aided and abetted by Truthos Mufasa, equally comfortable either singing the dulcet hook of Sit Back or trading bars on the raga-tinged Power. The ragga is supplied by Fox, laying some lively patois on the rumbling funk of the title track, and the rollocking ska of debut hit Who Gwan Test.
With the set list adapted according to the MCs present, the more abrasive elements of their back catalogue come to the fore. Shak Out‘s menacing double bass thickens the Kazimier air quicker than the over-enthusiastic smoke machine, and the always popular stoner anthem Blaze It Up gets the heads nodding through the haze.
This is a performance to prove the persistent Wu-Tang comparisons are more than journalistic hyperbole; this is a cabal of talented MCs in their own right, combining their energies to form an even stronger entity. Having seen both, I would even venture The Mouse Outfit as the more impressive live act. Instead of being reliant on a polymath producer like Rza, they revolve around a seven-piece funk band, resulting in not only a wider palette, but a spontaneous energy beyond their New York counterparts. Every time I watch this band they get better. No-one says that about Wu-Tang.