In at the Deep End

Studio Album by released in 2005

In at the Deep End review

Roll Deep – the East London crew who brought you Dizzee Rascal and Wiley – have finally stepped out of the shadows with a debut album of their own – one which is guaranteed to raise as many eyebrows as smiles. Roll Deep have decided to ambitiously throw everything they do together on one disk – raw lyrical reportage from the streets of East London, cheeky bad boy pop tracks, and slack summer shag anthems. In At The Deep End has all these ideas and more crammed in, jutting out at odd angles. They combined all elements from R&B, salsa and the grimiest hip-hop beats. Lyrically it's so detailed that it demands unraveling over weeks rather than minutes of listening. The 13-man collective is now winning plenty of friends for their debut single, The Avenue, which mixes The Maisonettes' Heartache Avenue with the grime sound more usually associated with the East London music scene.

This album tries to have something for everyone. While there's plenty of fast-talking rap from the likes of Flow Dan, Breeze, Riko, Trim, Brazen, Jet Le and Scratchy, there's also plenty of sampling, scratching and groove-laden melody-making to lighten things up a bit. The album can be split into two halves. The first, a breezy collection of mainstream viable crossover tunes that follow The Avenue's format; the other, a more grime-based collection of raps that reflect the sound of the streets they were written about. Tracks such as Heat Up and When I'm Ere fall into the latter category, emerging with the type of sound that is more associated with Dizzee Rascal, Roots Manuva and co, albeit with a strictly British slant on the word-play. While the likes of Bus Stop and Flying Away fall into The Avenue's category, emerging as a new urban sound that's certain to turn heads. Bus Stop, especially, sets some urgent rapping around a Seventies dancefloor groove, while Flying Away contains some wonderfully laidback guitar riffs and adds some soulful vocals that toss in elements of R&B.

While their roots lie in the eski/grime scene, however, In At The Deep End demonstrates little desire to remain immersed in fractious electro rhythms and dense urban patois. Switching genres with all the alacrity you’d expect from a unit with three producers, a beats merchant and nine MCs, they retain a collective identity that refuses to play to genre rules. It's this eclectic mixture of styles, in particular, that helps In At The Deep End to emerge from the shadows of most street-based albums with such credit; maintaining the credibility of its East End roots, while appealing to a much wider audience into the bargain. Roll Deep's ambition makes this almost certainly the most liberated UK rap album ever. They have created something they can be proud of. Something that doesn't fall into the bargain bucket of UK garage/hip-hop or UK urban gloop that comes and goes equally as fast. This album serves as a surprising gem within the myriad of groups claiming to be street but lack musicality – Roll Deep hold both qualities firmly in their hands.