Lowlife/Self Destruct Music - 2004 - 56 minutes

UK hip-hop, innit? From the freaky excursions from Roots Manuva to the geezerish tales of Mike Skinner, there's been a real explosion of quality records from across the water.

Skinnyman has been a prominent figure on the UK scene for some time. Gilles Petersen originally signed him to Talkin' Loud, only to see the label go bust, so the Finsbury Park MC's debut album has been long delayed.

'Council Estate of Mind' doesn't try to reinvent rap music; there's none of the Streets' clubby eclecticism or Dizzie Rascal's electro grime. Instead, the music is slick, classic-sounding hip-hop, scattered with soulful samples and minor-key melodies, a style familiar to any fans of French hip-hop acts such as IAM. As a bonus, Dublin boy DJ Flip's contributes a skilled, moody production on the title track.

Lyrically Skinnyman paints a thought-provoking and mature picture of life in the badlands of North London, delivered in an impeccable rhythmic flow. The album is knitted together with samples from classic early 80s nihilist flick, 'Made In Britain', making for an intense atmosphere.

The only possible complaint is that the music could have taken few more risks; this is a relatively traditional hip-hop album. But 'Council Estate of Mind' remains a much-needed sharp-witted antidote to the buffoonish likes of 50 Cent.

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: Intro - Fuck The Hook - Hayden - Little Man (Part 1) - Little Man (Part 2) - Love's Gone From The Streets - Day To Day Basis - Life In My Rhymes - It's Over - I'll Be Surprised - Who? Me - No Big Ting - Put In The Work - That's What I'm Gonna Do -Council Estate of Mind