Danger in a durag is the phrase that comes to mind when I listen to the wise but young uncle Mez from the forest (of Nottingham to be precise.) Since 2013 Mez has cast his durag over the Grime scene to make some serious waves. His debut EP ‘28’, dropped in 2015, and early releases ‘Sike’, ‘Normal shoe’, ‘Magnum’ and ‘One line flows’ served to increase Mez’s popularity; eventually earning him the seal of approval from grime grandmaster’s Kano, Skepta and Stormzy; with all MC’s inviting Mez to perform on their tours. The ‘Mezical’s’ rapid rise to prominence in a few short years; is a clear example of how the aftershocks of grime’s creation, spanned beyond the borough of Bow, East London, to reach as far as Mez’s ends in Nottingham; it is almost as though Mez had gathered the power from those early aftershocks Grime caused, whilst he was still in school; quietly storing up the momentum to sling it back at Grime’s capital with twice the force, to cause maximum lyrical destruction in a boomerang bomb blast effect!
Mez has made a colossal sized crater in Grime’s epicentre; due to his relentless high octane delivery, as seen in sets such as Sian’s studio, Rinse FM and Sir Spyro’s grime show; where he is able to change up his flow and slot in his words comfortably with the shift of every beat, mimicking a game of Tetris piecing and slotting blocks together. (Which is why I’ve taken to nicknaming him the Tetris terminator recently.) Mez is one of the most stylistic and technical MC’s from the current flock of talent to emerge from present day Grime. Watching Mez on mic is breath-taking, which is ironic as he barely draws for breath as his amped up lyrics twist and fuse like the DNA of a double helix strand! He is also physically awe inducing to watch as he bobs and weaves his body to ensure he draws all his strength to reach the target and mash up the mic; with the precision of a boxer landing a flurry of upper cuts, each one more powerful than the last. This is Mez’s sport and he’s come to snatch his heavyweight champion belt, along with wigs! you only have to look at the expressions of other MC’s in the studio alongside Mez; as they stare at him with a mixture of awe, disbelief and respect; as he unleashes a riptide of tongue twisting anecdotes and metaphors with an effortless swag, in a distinctive upper inflection at the end of each of his bars; ensuring he becomes a mainstay in your memory after just one listen.
It became obvious Mez had a firm grasp on his place in Grime; when he released his joint 2016 EP with the producer that brought us the banger ‘P’s&Q’s’, the mighty Davinche. The ‘M1’ EP was a hyperactive outing, laced with full textured beats supplied by Davinche and a guest list which looked more like the V.I.P table at the MOBO’s, (Stormzy, AJ Tracey and Harvey all feature.) The EP ended with the sweet, poppy and identifiable ‘Nott’s to London’ which could just as easily have been called, ‘Manny to London’, as Mez breaks it down perfectly, what it’s like to travel back and forth from North to South so frequently on the train; with both of us residing outside Grime’s capital, I felt tired just listening to it as I recalled my own hectic North/south journeys. (With great ambition comes great sacrifice, I feel you Mez those journeys can be draining!)
Mez’s third EP ‘Tyrone’ released January 2018, opens with the sparsely but expertly produced Lewi B ‘Angles’ (Lewi B coincidently produced our 2017 album of the year ‘Outbursts from the outskirts’ by Manga.) Mez makes sure we know he’s putting in work to hone his craft ensuring his skills are as sharp as angles, with each angle representing the many styles Mez is able to draw upon to take on his competitors in the game. The minimalist production is heard again on ‘Tyrone Freestyle’; which is a series of mischievously quirky xylophone taps and spacious electronic synths as Tyrone tells us, “Look at the way I’m lyrically stretching myself to a place nobody’s ever gettin’. That’s why man are stressin…” There are also call backs to Mez’s 2016 singles, ‘Normal Shoe’ and ‘Magnum’ on this track and throughout the EP; demonstrating that Mez is in touch with his roots and remembers where he came from. The upper inflection Mez brought to his bars on the ‘M1’ EP are noticeably absent here.
Mez eases us into the EP, as it is not until the threatening and skittish riddim of the third track ‘Follow us’, that the gully joins the grime. Mez matches his bars with the warning tones of the instrumental; and makes it clear he’s fully aware man are trying to slyly steal his style but he’s unfazed as he is a leader not a follower. Mez still has imitators on his mind as he opens with the question; “Why are they copying me?” on the very quiet and sonically strange ‘Knowledge.’ The nominal production allows Uncle Mez to air his complex thoughts; and enables his knowledge to have breathing space making it easy for the listener to digest and understand him as a person, not just an artist. The track that has had my bootie rotating like a fidget spinner on steroids at 8 am before work every morning; is the PHENOMENAL ‘Octopus’, this track has it ALL – it’s grimey, it’s hyperactive, it’s energy personified. We have sci-fi sounding, rocket launch pad computer bleeps (I’ve missed those in Grime.) The track opens with what actually sounds like an octopus in the depths of a murky sea, lurking and creeping up on crayfish to devour for dinner. (Go back and listen to the intro and see if this image forms in your mind.) Most interestingly ‘Octopus’ is underscored with a dancehall tempo and the unmistakable shouts of “Ay ay ay ay ay’s”, you hear when a sound bwoy is duppying man inna the dance; which is exactly what Mez does to us with bars like, “I’m in the dancehall lickin’ man down and I’m dressed in blue so man would think I’m Chun Li’s son.” Mez has brought us a perfect hybrid of dancehall / Grime / electronic with ‘Octopus’, and I thought it was the best Grime track of 2018 so far until…
The very next track on Mez’s EP, ‘Ready to Skeng.’ After first listen I felt speechless, spun and superhuman! This IS Grime. ‘Ready to skeng’ has ADHD, it has anger issues, it’s antagonistic with a short fuse and it’s out of control. The high pitched drum pattern interjected with a hollow bell is reminiscent of one of the greatest Grime tracks of all time; Dizzee Rascal’s ‘I luv u.’ The production of ‘Ready to skeng’ is minimal but effective; especially when Mez is spazzing on the riddim unleashing bars which form a tornado in your brain to the point you can feel the G-force of Mez’s lyrics; making for an exhilarating and dizzying 4:48 mins. When the track ended I flopped down on my bed, exhausted, as though I’d spat those lyrics myself and thought – OK Grime has a fresh young king on its hands here, that much is evident. Mez lets us have a little rest on closing track ‘Different Places’, a helter skelter of a track encompassing a melee of instruments; including synths, piano and flutes(?) combining in a disjointed fashion; one minute sounding jazz lite the next like the ‘Mission Impossible’ theme (The Sly and Robbie reggae version of course); as Mez laments over the last few years of his fast track journey to acceptance within the grime scene as he candidly reveals; “I’ve been puttin’ in so much work in London, that certain words in my Nottingham accent’s changing”; this sentence alone conveys the non-stop graft Mez has put in to secure his place as the “David Beckham” of the current crop of MC’s.
Upon listening to the ‘Tyrone’ EP, it becomes apparent early on that Mez is not on this journey alone, he has a companion, a side kick and a wingman all rolled into one. Meet Mez’s co-star – his durag. Mez gives his beloved durag centre stage on the ‘Tyrone’ EP – he dons his durag in the same way that Spiderman and The Black Panther don their masks to become invincible superheroes. The final garm to Mez’s microphone slaying uniform; is the final piece Mez dons to become super skilled once worn, in the same way Mario becomes supersized when he munches his mushrooms. Mez’s durag is with him when he rhymes, when he’s chillin, when he’s challenging and he proudly states he wears his durag for the soldiers, revealing Mez does not just wear his durag as a fashion statement; it’s also a symbol of strength to other young kings coming up in the struggle. Heck Mez’s Durag is along for the literal ride of its life when he’s getting amorous with his woman on the brilliant ‘Octopus’, as he declares he’s, “Beatin’ the ting with my durag on and my durag strings are jumping around.” (If Mez and JME link up on a track they WILL be the most powerful durag duo of all time!)
Mez brings his durag along for the action on 5 of the 7 tracks, with ‘Follow us’ almost becoming a full blown tribute to his durag’s powers of sorcery; which Mez seems to draw upon to expertly slay anyone who is brave enough to step to him. The ability Mez possesses to incorporate his durag, an inanimate object, into a fully realised character and co-star throughout the EP; points to Mez’ capabilities and quirky demeanour. This, along with the fact he’s brought the weird and ‘other’ sound back to grime, rhyming ferociously over threatening grime riddims, that would even have the fearless bally gang shook; really does make this offering “The Great grime EP of 2018.” My only complaint is, this should have been a full length project. We are all ready for more of Mez’s microphone mastery, we can handle it!
WATCH ‘Tyrone Freestyle’ *VIDEO*
WATCH ‘Angles’ *VIDEO*
‘TYRONE’ Spotify link