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The Ruby Kid

A writer attempting to summarize Hip Hop artist The Ruby Kid has constant recourse to clichés about the artist’s Polish-American Jewish roots and working-class socialist politics.

Journalistic expediency is no doubt something The Ruby Kid has learnt to treat with contempt as he strives to be nothing but himself and not merely the fulfillment of the insensibly generic titles given to him. Cast aside any wooly comparisons to Mike Skinner or any uninformed comments on how his radical, leftfield style is somehow more acceptable to those who can’t stand rap music, and you discover The Ruby Kid is, in essence, a refreshingly talented and exciting young musician who is championing the toil of independent Hip Hop artists and musicians in the UK. With his new EP entitled “Maps” on the cards, here is a brief introduction to a young man, unerringly serious about his emceeing craft.

Hailing from Nottingham but now dwelling in London’s bohemian East End, The Ruby Kid doesn’t really represent any city but sees Sheffield as his most beloved of stomping grounds. This is the place where his rap career began to bloom and where he first hooked up with band Black Jacobins, with whom he regularly collaborates and performs live on-stage. He and his band of talented musicians are entirely self-funded and perform on-stage together convivially like a group of good mates with great cohesion and mutual understanding. The able musical backing they provide really enhances and harmonizes The Ruby Kid’s robust and at times, beguiling lyricism.

There are definite shades of Bob Dylan, an artist whom The Ruby Kid himself cites as a big musical influence and being so flattering, this is one obvious comparison I am therefore far less loath to draw. Lyrically, The Ruby Kid’s tracks are also shot through with explicit references to his working-class socialist politics but it would be one-dimensional to define him just as a political artist. His music intuitively strikes a balance between sensitive musings on the human condition and pithy remarks on social and political struggles. The result is lyrical content that never feels forced, preachy or pretentious but invigoratingly honest, incisive and eloquent. The medium of rap also helps transmit every nuance of his words in a compelling and descriptive way.

Evidently, The Ruby Kid demands the active participation of the listener for his music to be fully appreciated, and while it might sometimes be easier to lose oneself in his sea of similes, metaphors and literary allusions whilst gently surfing the lovely jazz or piano-tinkling instrumentals backing his vocals, it would be wasteful not to attempt glean some of the key themes implicit in his poetry. One criticism is that his music could prove too cryptic for the average listener but it is obvious that The Ruby Kid is not about pandering to a passive audience, which would, as such, necessitate the toning down of the charming lyricism that crucially underpins his style. The Ruby Kid’s “Winter in the City” EP is indicative of this style and is overall, a wonderful celebration of personal expression. It seamlessly fuses references to Dylan Thomas, Leonard Cohen and Jacques Lacan, poignant tales of the suffering of immigrant workers in Manhattan’s Garment District in the early 20th century, vivid descriptions of bleak inner-city aesthetics and a lament on the perpetual conflict between the art and industry of Hip Hop whilst all the while being held together by some impressive backing and vocal work. The EP is rich and eclectic and one hopes a perfect blueprint for what’s to come. His next EP represents a new chapter in the intriguing tale of The Ruby Kid following his recent move to the capital and will have some exciting featurings as well as top class production from London-based producer and beatmaker Dan Angell.

At the end of the day, it isn’t for me to sum this man up in a neat little media-friendly sound bite but I do hope I may have encouraged you to discover The Ruby Kid for yourself. This is a musician pursuing music solely as a labour of love regardless of what wealth he earns from it. After all, real Hip Hop is only kept alive by the contributions made not by hit-obsessed majors but by passionate individuals.

Visit http://www.therubykid.com/ to hear a sample of the forthcoming Maps EP

Words > Tom Clements

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