Gutter urine stench, marauding gangs, pimps, prostitutes, drugs, utter soul-sapping poverty: these are not the images of which Sweden is made. However, it was in those types of conditions that hip-hop was born. So, when we think of rap, we think of the South Bronx, South Central, Brooklyn, even Atlanta and New Orleans — but Stockholm?
Well, after listening to Government Music, one might be forced to think of the land of herring and ice floes as another locale of hard-hitting rhyme flows. I never really pictured a place that sports winter games and socialized medicine as a focal point for inner city rage, but something in Scandinavia’s making Looptroop’s Promoe wanna holler. From the CD’s messianic Communist agitprop cover, you know that this is going to be an uncompromising manifesto. A political tract that assaults the listener with hard-driving beats and Promoe’s lyricism (and English, the man’s second language), this project is reminiscent of Public Enemy and a time when hip-hop was more vocal. Promoe lets you have it with “Prime Time” (decrying the evils of the media with a Chomsky sample) or “Conspiracy” (you figure it out). While the production is better than average, there are some real stand-outs with “Urban Guerrilla Warfare,” “Positive & Negative,” “Interesting Indeed,” and “Dawn.” And for you battle-rhyme fans, there’s “Big In Japan,” with his Looptroop comrades, Cos.M.I.C. and Supreme.
While most of rap’s stuck in different modes of G-dome, it’s refreshing to be reminded of all that the genre can offer — even if you have to go to Sweden to do it. Of course, there are a bunch of cats in the States doing it as well, and Promoe’s quite reminiscent of Black Star. While not exactly at the Talib Kweli/Mos Def level, Government MusicÃs definitely some of the best rap one can hear from across the Atlantic this side of Solaar.