subtle yet hard-hitting...
Huw Jones
13:40 16th July 2008

British Hip-Hop has come a long way since the 1980’s and standing at the forefront of what is now affectionately known as Grindie is a man called Marvin. Since crashing to earth two years ago, Marvin has dropped his Martian suffix for the release of his debut album, proving that he’s anything but from another planet. He is in fact from Brixton and ‘Devil In The Distance’, an album with more dysfunctionality than a curfew of ASBO’s, is an uncompromising and autobiographical stomp through the South London of his yoof, highlighting the gritty pressures of contemporary urban living.

Although its genre bending crossover appeal ensures musical accessibility, the emphasis is placed firmly on the use of observational lyrics and the window they open onto societal decay. Fuelled by an intense honesty, spat over unbending and hard-nosed instrumentation, the dark undertone of ‘Goodbye’ tackles the endemic spate of gun and knife culture head on and the socio-political theme continues further through ‘Get By (Be Good)’ and ‘Fight Or Flee’ by exploring the effects of isolation and fear combined with the frustrations of poverty and ultimately the harsh realities of life.

While instinctively pragmatic, Marvin does manage, in part, to conceal his heartfelt anger behind a thinly veiled guise. References to Masters of the Universe, Rainbow, Panda Pops, Chicago Bulls and Naf-Naf not only define Marvin’s era but also contain a matured innocence that allow him to openly discuss drug addiction, broken family dynamics, sexuality, racism, mental health and the vicious circle of stereotypical expectations examined in ‘First Born’, ‘Richards Nan’ and ‘Devil In The Distance’.

Marvin also understands the importance of optimism and the album is littered with hope through the interactive lust, patter and promise of ‘Trocadero’, self-confident belief of ‘That One Time’ and in ‘Superhero’, the acknowledgement that day-to-day survival is a worthy achievement in itself. Culminating with a soft step plea for help ‘Carry Me’ recognises that life is tough, made tougher going it alone and that to end the proverbial self fulfilling prophecy something has to give.
   
Jacqui Smith doesn’t have the answer and nor does Marvin. He’s not a politician or a gangster and doesn’t attempt to provide solutions to the widespread problems plaguing a desensitised zeitgeist. But his straightforward approach, authentic delivery and effortlessly sharp, subtle yet hard-hitting intelligence does expose an innovative trailblazer who, excusing the cliché, isn’t afraid to tell it how it is.