Lee Hawthorn

Ken Masters sets the bar with bars about bars inside a bar…

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Ken Masters

In the latest release from Ken Masters, the Geordie MC spits bars about bars, with a music video shot inside a bar – and in doing so, sets the bar for releases this year.

Using the polysemous term “bar”‘ as a centre point for his newest release, Master’s constructs a series of (rap) bars which exhibit wonderful wordplay. The creative repetition of bar as a syllable throughout the track is reminiscent of Shocka’s Third Degree video for SBTV and Fire In The Booth freestyle alongside Double S, but manages to oust his North London peer thanks largely due to the video. Shot inside of Byker’s Tanners Arms, the video is without doubt the best video I’ve seen come from the North East. While it’s been done before, the playing of multiple characters and the ability to merge two shots together is something that will never get old.

In Hip Hop, artistry is often overlooked. Wonder Bars isn’t necessarily a great record, from the perception of a radio or club DJ, it’s not something that you could use to introduce casual music fans to Hip Hop and expect them to get; and that’s the beauty of it, it’s not a track that fits into a mould, it’s something that pushes boundaries. It may have done before, but it’s not done often and not to this extent. There aren’t many who can turn a word as simple as bar into a multiple entendre, and it’s even better to see that it’s a local talent who is executing such a complex concept to perfection.

I love around 75 per cent of the North East Hip Hop records I hear, but even I, as a passionate fan of the region can admit, it’s a rarity that anything is significantly different to anything that precedes it in terms of structures. In an era in which everybody with a webcam can upload a rap record to YouTube, you need to push yourself into realms of exception, so that listeners can separate the credible MCs from the internet rappers – and it’s with gimmicks like Nas telling a story backwards for Rewind, or Blackalicious’s alliterative Alphabet Aerobics and now Ken Masters’ Wonderbars that can help distinguish between the two.

It’s not a record that I’ll put on repeat for days on end and be able to recite the words to within a handful of listens; instead it’s a record that will be revisited years down the line, and remembered as a monument to North East Hip Hop, and the spectacular skill showcased, maybe even as a cult classic.

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