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33 Revolutions Per Minute

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Album Review

Once touted as the Anglo-Irish answer to Public Enemy, revolutionary socialist rap group Marxman never quite achieved the same level of notoriety as Chuck D. & co., but it wasn't through lack of trying. Unceremoniously banned from BBC Radio upon the release of protest single "Ship Ahoy" — which featured MC Hollis Byrne tastelessly uttering the phrase "tiocfaidh ár lá," the motto of the Irish Republican Army — their star would continue to shine only in the underground, where 33 Revolutions Per Minute would rightly be regarded as one of Bristol hip-hop's most accomplished and original efforts. MCs Hollis Byrne (an Irish-born emigrant) and Phrase (a Bristol-born Jamaican), driven by a quest for social justice, were brutally honest in their depictions of racism ("Ship Ahoy"), malignant colonialism ("Sad Affair") and domestic abuse ("All About Eve"), issues that few in the mainstream before or since have been willing to tackle honestly. Talented rappers though they are, the mastermind behind Marxman was Dublin electronic artist Oisín Lunny, combining elements of the soon-to-be "Bristol Sound," gloomy electronics and Northern soul, with traditional Irish musicians, enlisting the help of Sinéad O'Connor to sing "Ship Ahoy"'s moving chorus, and Davy Spillane, whose flute sounds underpin "Dark Are the Days," Gang Starr supremo DJ Premier guest-produced "Drifting." Nevertheless, it's Lunny's stunning arrangements that make 33 Revolutions Per Minute such a unique experience.

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Formed: 1989 in Dublin, Ireland

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '90s

Marxman was a four-piece hip-hop group formed in London in 1989. Together with groups like Massive Attack and Portishead, Marxman helped craft the "Bristol sound," a studied blend of hip-hop, Northern soul, and electronic music that formed the basis for what would become the trip-hop subgenre. The group's uncompromising political beliefs, augmented by their diverse racial makeup, were the source of much controversy during their brief reign in the British singles charts, leading their debut single,...
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