Stereo MC’s - Connected - Review
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critics' view

The Stereo MCs third full album was a potent mix of indie-style funk and rap beats and lyricism. It fed off Brixton drug tragedy and the LA riots, but was held together by dancefloor grooves. It aimed for the head and the heart - the mainstream and the underground - and was one of the defining albums of the Nineties, copping BRIT Awards for Best Group and Best Album.

The creative juices of rapper Rob Birch and production whiz Nick Hallam were flowing in the summer leading up to the creation of Connected. The success of their remix work for the likes of U2 and the Jungle Brothers, plus their well-received second album Supernatural and its US support meant that their label, Island Records, had faith in the boys to deliver their potential on their next project.

Starting out life in their Lavender Hill flat, the pair worked on beats off old 7” vinyl, sampling deadly grooves and penning lyrics as they watched the girls walk by in the sunshine. A move midway through to a Brixton basement studio meant they were at ground level of the inner city, and its pressures coloured the lyrics and mood of the resulting material. Drug dealers did their trade nearby and Birch reflected in his lyrics. At the time, positivity rang out and fans of dance wanted some head music with their beats, and the Stereo MCs delivered.

From their home studios they took their floppy disc arrangements down Old Kent Road to a place called The Workhouse to jam on grooves and work with drummer Owen If and vocalist Cath Coffey. The magic happened and the resulting hits like Connected and Step It Up featured as heavily in the pop charts as they did in the Walkman's of the hip.

At the time music was segregated. Hip hop heads would never admit to digging guitar music and vice versa, but the Stereo MCs found a way into both camps' headphones.

Roy Spencer
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