Compilation sequels don’t fare much better than their cinematic counterparts. Nuggets 2, The Godfather Part II of music, is the exception that proves the rule because, after all, most compilations are either collecting the best of a genre’s or artist’s output or capturing a moment in time. In each case, it is inevitable that the second attempt will be lesser. Run the Road was a spectacular offering. It brought together the best of the grime scene at (nearly) the height of its participants’ talents in order to trumpet the genre as the second coming.
This is the part of the review where the critic pokes fun at the underground movement for failing to break into the mainstream. But it seems so petty with grime. Sure, one year ago Run the Road was released to a media that was hungry for British urban crossover in America and a music community starving for the next big thing — let’s face it, we’re currently in the online-music-community equivalent of the late-’90s dotcom bubble — and now it seems like none of that turned into anything. But if an excellent Kano record went ignored and a genre that was never really meant to go big time didn’t, it wasn’t anyone’s fault.
Maybe today really is the most forward-thinking (and odd) time for mainstream hip-hop, but those triumphs come from the bottom up (crunk had to go plat before it was even mentioned on MTV), and even if the British gave credibility to the movement, there’s no grassroots push stateside. So even Dizzee’s still-fantastic Boy in da Corner is rejected by most of the hip-hop community.
By the way, Run the Road Vol. 2 sucks. It’s not the absence of many of the genre’s pioneers; it’s the horrible “I Luv You” rip off “Gotta Man” and the awful acoustic failure of Plan B’s “Sick 2 Def,” where even name-checking Nas while he rips him off can’t distract from the fact that it’s a distant second to the original. Occasionally, the album pulls off some big victories: Opener “Get Set” is that hype shit, and Kano gives a typically solid performance on “Mic Check Remix.” But the highlights are few and far between.
Mostly, the record displays a jump closer to American hip-hop in both production styles and rhyming, and the urgency that was so palpable on the first installment is gone. Hardly anything on this compilation resembles the garage that the genre evolved out of, and the inclusion of decidedly un-grimey U.K. hip-hop star Sway — along with the straight hip-hop “Can’t You See?” — furthers the recent perception that grime might be merging with the stagnant overall hip-hop scene in London. I say perception because the choices to include the songs here are only choices. There is still great grime out there, and it’s a shame that this most prominent series will only expose Americans to this mediocre material.
Vice Records Web site