Artist: Tairrie B
Album: Vintage Curses
Our Verdict: 10/10
Release date: 14th August
Find it at: Bandcamp
Review by: Graeme Blackwell
“Tairrie B is back with killer, innovative, old-school West Coast influenced hip hop album Vintage Curses.”
Let’s get the bullshit out of the way so that we can get to the good stuff, shall we? Right?
Tairrie B is 50. Get over it.
Tairrie B is white. Don’t like it? Go home, asshole.
Tairrie B is – gasp – a woman. Holy shit. What do you want for spotting that? A medal?
Newflash, bozos. Tairrie B knows who she is. It’s the skin she has lived in, loved in, laughed in and had beaten, battered and bruised on life’s journey. She’s still here. She’s still standing. She’s still fighting for her art and her truth. She owns it, and you won’t be able to hold that against her.
You got nothing good to say? Then shut the hell up and don’t say anything at all.
Okay. Glad that’s out of the way.
The good news for the rest of us is that Tairrie B is back with new solo rap album Vintage Curses and making killer, innovative, old-school West Coast influenced hip hop; music that is expertly realised with originality, depth and nuance; music that pays respect to those who have come before and lays the ground for those who will follow; music that is fiercely her own and true to both Tairrie and itself.
Once signed to N.W.A. lynchpin Eazy E’s Ruthless Records imprint Comptown Records, Tairrie B released her debut rap album The Power Of A Woman in 1990, a trailblazing slab of sedition containing plenty of skill, vim and vigor and one that paved the way for many female artists to follow.
Ultimately a move into the rap-metal hybrid band Manhole followed (later becoming Tura Satana), before the fully fledged metal behemoth of My Ruin emerged from the ashes at the turn of the new millennium. A 20 year, highly-acclaimed career as a screaming metal potentate was the result, fueled by the heavy riffs of the man who would later become her husband, Mick Murphy (who also co-produced and provided the live instrumentation found on Vintage Curses.)
But rather than fighting against each other, Tairrie’s experiences in both the hip hop and metal worlds work together to highlight the elements of their shared DNA, weaving together like a musical double-helix and knitting with her long-standing interest in the arcane and occult to create a whole new breed of sound; an as yet unidentified new species of rap.
Witness the mind-melting mesh of old-school beats with The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” in lead single “Beware The Crone”, The Eagles’ “Witchy Woman” in the relentless throb of “Wicked Witch Of The West Coast”, Frankie Valli’s “Grease” in the LA hymn “Sky Above, City Below” and – yes – even Cliff Richard’s “Devil Woman” in closing track “Devil May Care.” Sugarloaf, Dave Lee Roth and Pentagram make appearances elsewhere, and all of them could probably have learned a thing or two from Tairrie about re-inventing yourself with grace, credibility and a healthy dose of “fuck you” attitude.
But it’s not just the samples that delight. Lyrically, Tairrie is on excoriating form too, tackling her early career history (“Check your discs you’ll find me, but if ya don’t betta check your history. First dropped in nineteen ninety, one of a kind when Eazy signed me”), her time fronting some of metal’s finest bands (“The hair got blacker, the voice got deeper, I got stronger while they got weaker”), paying respect to the architects of the West Coast sound and name-checking female pioneers from music, art, poetry and the spirit realm. Sylvia Plath and Hecate are both very welcome here.
There’s equally deft wordplay on the themes of the “Witch” and the “Bitch” too, Tairrie reclaiming the maligned language of heavy magick and re-framing it as an empowering and positive force (she reworks “witch” as “Women In The Coven of Hip Hop”, just as she did the word “bitch” back in 1990, re-defining it as “Being In Total Control of Herself.”) Not for this woman the empty self-agrandising so apparent in much modern mainstream hip hop; rather the ownership of all that is thrown at her, both good and bad, and the ability to transform it in to something strong and powerful, both for herself and those who listen.
That’s not to say that Vintage Curses is relentlessly serious, dour or heavy-handed, though. The dynamics of the rhythm and flow of the album are infections in themselves, and anyone with a love of the old-school will likely find themselves unable resist either head or – for the more athletically minded – body popping to the carefully curated big beats, as well as smiling wryly at the electrifying original hooks and instrumentation (there’s genuine fun to be had listening to Mick Murphy, the Birds Of Satan’s Wiley Hodgden and Studio 606’s chief-engineer and Teenage Time Killers alumnus John Lousteau intoning “Beware the crone, just like Medusa she will turn you to stone!”, like harbingers of doom from some Olde English Hammer horror, during the chorus of the album’s first single.)
For all her extraordinary and accomplished work in the world of metal, Vintage Curses makes it hard to shake the feeling that Tairrie B’s heart-of-hearts still lies deeply in the world of rap and hip hop. The collection of songs has an otherworldly energy that is spellbinding in its intensity, and a close and careful listen to the work shows a depth of craft and skill that only comes with the kind of raw, passionate hard work and experience that flows from the belief that this is what you were born to do.
Tairrie B, wordslinger, truth-bringer, multi-faceted and mercurial maven bringing the heart back to hip hop, it’s fucking great to have you back.
Download Vintage Curses now on a ‘pay what you want’ basis from tairrieb.bandcamp.com
Read our interview with Tairrie B here