Birmingham MC Redbeard’s 16-track Tha 40 Minute Wonda (which actually clocks in at just under 40 minutes, but that’s me being pedantic) is a promo, released for free via the internet in anticipation for his debut album, Tha Bearded Wonda.
16 tracks, you think? 40 minutes? Surely not. Then you open it and see that a lot of the tracks are actually snippets (with just 7 tracks passing the 3-minute mark). This isn’t a bad thing though, in fact it’s quite an advantage. Some people (admittedly, occasionally including myself) or lazy when it comes to listening to new artists, and a 16 track album full of 3 and 4-minute songs might seem like a bit of an effort. 40 Minute Wonda compiles snippets and full tracks, giving the listener the option to listen to the snippets, then if that grabs their interest, there are those 7 full songs there. If they listen to the snippets and don’t like it, that’s okay, they haven’t felt like their time was completely wasted. Or, like most people with more than a fleeting interest in what’s popular on the radio at present, you could listen to the whole thing.
Probably the most standout full track is Mind Gamez, which incorporates quite hypnotic rhyme schemes in places (‘I don’t need to be psychic/I’ve seen it all my life, even as a white kid/I was still stereotyped as in the crime ring/’Cause I don’t look like a member of the right wing/It’s frightening’), whilst still retaining the vein of honesty that seems to run through the entire UK hip-hop umbrella (‘I’ll give you a slight hint/I ain’t in it for nice bling/Even though I’m quite skint’). It also has a sense of ‘come together, let’s do something to change this’, which is quite unique to hip-hop, as it seems to have this universal voice to unite people that you don’t really see on a major scale in any other genre.
Another track definitely worth listening to is Home From Home, because it’s always nice hearing people talk about where they’re from, their city, and the things that make it what it is. Everybody has something they can say about where they live that, whilst probably not being unique to their city, makes it what it is on a personal level (for example, for Stoke I would say something like ‘the oatcake shop across from Forest Park, and the statue on the side of the Potteries that looks like it’s going to fall’). You would have no idea what I’m talking about, but there’s just something there that makes you think of home. That’s what you get with this track.
Overall, it’s an excellent introduction to Redbeard, the combination of snippets and full-length songs giving you a good idea of what to expect in the future from this promising artist, and other promising UK up-and-comers. But with just seven of sixteen songs being over 3 minutes, it leaves you wanting a little more from it.