Thursday, Jun 08 2006 | 12:59

With “The Many Facets Of…” Unique Reacords are releasing the long awaited debut album of London based MC and soul brother Travis Blaque, who has already worked with The Herbaliser (Ninja Tune) and classic rap group The Quiet Boyz. Travis Blaque has been a contributing member of the hip hop scene for more than 20 years as a breakdancer, session MC and recording artist.

“The Many Facets Of…” offers a great musical variety within a total of 14 fascinating songs, recorded in three individual sessions with producers such as Keith Lawrence (Muzik Ed Productions) and Drew Horley (Drewbeats) at The Lab Studios London, Jason Moe aka Moezart (Nerol Productrions / Roachford fame) and Sweden’s finest, 3rd Floor, resulting in warm, strong, straightforward and uncompromising hip hop / urban songs. An album heavily loaded with soul, flow, and lyrical heat, comparable to the work of artists such as Rodney P, Roots Manuva and The Plantlife, although Travis Blaque is much more of a poet, cynic, realist, critic, and observer of life. He comments, reflects and deals with the simple, human, everyday things from the perspective of the son of Jamaican immigrants.

“The Many Facets Of…” is all about message, authenticity, vision, and integrity. The album includes various tracks where Travis Blaque talks about serious issues like racial prejudices (“Raymond Cist”), kids suffering from broken up relationships (“A Song For Troy”) and the overall struggle of the individual in the 21st century.

“The Many Facets Of…” features several guest appearances such as the catching spirits of soul supremo Noel McCoy (Incognito, The James Taylor Quartet) on the fabulous “Al Is Dead”, Ty’s live-rapper Dom G., oldschool veterans Apollo and EvOn (all being featured on the first single “Who R U?”) and the cousin of roots reggae legend Peter Tosh, Debra Norman aka Farasha on “Home”. All of these artists contribute to the great variety of the project that expands the hip hop genre far into real soul music with the main driving force Travis Blaque as mastermind and pragmatic networking person.

For the last 10 years Travis Blaque has been the store manager of Soul Brother Records, a record collectors’ paradise in Putney, London, specialised in soul, jazz & funk. Inspirational, don’t you think?
Here’s his story so far …

Q: Who is Travis Blaque?

In the early 80s hip hop was still very much a culture in its infancy. Having been born in the Bronx, New York, some years earlier, this soon-to-become global phenomenon was still slowly but surely spreading its way across America and beyond like an unstoppable virus. In South London, England, sat a curious youngster who was more than happy to be infected by the beats, rhymes, dance styles and fashions of this new cultural movement.

Initially lured into the hip hop world by the seemingly impossible dance moves of legends such as the West Coast’s Poppin’ Pete, Fabian Stephenson made his name locally as a body-popper, moon-walking and gliding his way across sheets of linoleum to the sound of electro classics such as Cybotron’s “Clear”. However, it was after witnessing the Cookie Crew win a London rap competition hosted by Tim Westwood that Fabian’s journey as a poet and emcee would ultimately begin. Serving his lyrical apprenticeship in the mid-80s as part of South London’s Global Rhythm sound system (which also counted drum & bass legend Grooverider amongst its ranks), Fabian began to acquaint himself with the microphone, encouraged to develop his own individual style by the music of UK icons such as London Posse, Demon Boyz and Hijack.

In 1988, with the British hip hop movement gaining momentum, Fabian made his vinyl debut as part of the SL Troopers under the name of Sweet Pea, dropping the “Unarmed Yet Dangerous” 12″ on Global Rhythm. The following year saw SL Troopers release a follow-up single on the esteemed Music Of Life imprint, “Movement” b/w “There It Is”. Although both efforts received a warm reception from the UK rap audience (with SL Troopers receiving favourable press in the then newly established publication Hip-Hop Connection), Fabian decided to take a break from making music, instead choosing to focus on his college drama studies. But this career diversion wouldn’t keep him from the pen and pad for long.

The beginning of the 90s signalled the opening of a new decade-long chapter in Fabian’s sonic story that involved hard work, opportunity and a willingness to experiment. In 1992 he recorded with the Quiet Boyz on their Acid Jazz-released album “Can’t Hold The Vibe” and in 1995 he teamed up with rare groove DJ/producer Chris Bangs for the Mr Electric Triangle project, “Kosmosis Of The Heart”. Both of these collaborations displayed Fabian’s ability to work within a variety of musical fields that spanned hip hop, jazz and soul, a trait that would become a trademark of this open-minded wordsmith in subsequent years.

1996 found Fabian working with cult production duo The Herbaliser on their debut Ninja Tune album “Remedies”, appearing on the track “Wrong Place”. This newly-established musical alliance would also see the rapper contribute to the Herbaliser’s “Flawed Hip-Hop EP” later that same year, along with further appearances on the pair’s critically-acclaimed 1997 sophomore set, “Blow Your Headphones”. At the same time Fabian also secured a guest spot on an R&B album by a female artist named Eddy. The project, entitled “Delighted”, was co-written and produced by Lee John of 80s soul group Imagination and released in Japan to much success.

It was at this point in his career that Fabian reached something of a creative crossroads. The result of which was the birth of his recording alter-ego, Travis Blaque, an artist who views the world through cynical eyes while struggling to balance the duality of human consciousness. Blaque represents the ying and yang of life. The constant battle between good and evil that wages within us, no matter how well-balanced or good-natured we may consider ourselves to be. The first appearance of this darker lyrical persona would be on the Ollie Teeba-produced single “Dead Weight”, a heavy slice of hip hop that found Travis unleashing his understated lyrical fury on the competition with unique results. This would soon be followed by another irony-fuelled cut, “The Bachelors”, which came with a remix by stateside production sensation RJD2. Since then Travis has also toured across Europe with underground West Coast favourites Ugly Duckling, stopping off for a successful 2004 performance at London’s Jazz Café before gigging throughout 2005.

His most recent work, the highly-anticipated long-player debut “The Many Facets Of…” is an unpredictable blend of sounds and styles that refuses to bow down to preconceptions or rap-related stereotypes. Yes, Travis Blaque is hip hop, but this is hip hop music in the true sense of the term, showcasing an artist who is determined to remain himself in today’s fickle celebrity-obsessed world whilst simultaneously entertaining and educating his listeners. From the sleazy sexploitation tales of “In Pursuit Of The Flesh” to the analysis of race relations on “Raymond Cist”, the content of “The Many Facets Of…” is always challenging and thought-provoking.

Without a doubt, Travis Blaque is an individual who always has something to say. Isn’t it time you started paying attention?

Tracklisting:

01. Intro
02. In Persuit Of The Flesh
03. Who R U feat. Apollo & Dom G.
04. When I Was @ School
05. Vowel Movement
06. Home feat. Farasha
07. A Song 4 Troy
08. Al Is Dead feat. Noel McCoy
09. I Couldn´t Help
10. Let Me Be The One feat. Amore
11. Raymond Cist
12. All She Wants To Do Is Dance
13. Wannabe
14. The Scene

The album Travis BlaqueThe Many Facets Of…” (Unique) is out on June 09, 2006.

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