When Yosh sent me his Fled The Flock MP3s for review during that hinterland period between Christmas and new year, I was kind of excited that it was really my first fresh music of 2012, because it was due for release on 1st January. Since then, the Mancunian has released two entirely separate new tracks, with yet another album on the way. I say “yet another” because in 2011 he brought out two EPs! On top of this, almost every day it seems I see him on Twitter, hustling producers for new material to spit over. Yes, Mr Yosh Stanisauskis is nothing if not prolific, and it’s inspiring to see someone with such a hunger for his art.
He’s also controversial, or at least Greater Manchester Police seemed to think so when they stopped his set in Rochdale last summer, after the MC asked the young crowd “who wants to hear how the police statistically stop more ethnic minorities than white people?” Apparently public discussion of institutional racism was verboten.
But I have to say, the thing which immediately struck me about Fled The Flock was how amazingly well produced it is, considering we’re not exactly talking about a (and I hope Yosh doesn’t mind the comparison) Timbaland here. Yet each track is hooky and catchy in a way that conscious rappers don’t often aspire to. Hiphoplifeandtimes.com had it exactly right when they commented: “I think sometimes people wrongly assume that just because a record is catchy and easy to listen to, then that some how that means the content will automatically be watered down. It just comes as standard, right? Wrong. This is the type of joint I can show to my less musically astute friends (that’s a nice way of saying ‘crappy music’) and they can still get something from it without asking me to turn the radio back on.”
That’s all and good, and it’s a facet of the music which will surely gain Yosh a bigger audience, but what about the message? Well overall I’d say the album’s central theme is uplift of the self, and through this, uplift of society. Of course, if you are going to talk about uplift, then an important aspect of that is acknowledging that the present day – and I take it Yosh believes the life of the average hiphop fan – just isn’t good enough.
These elements are probably most pronounced on One Step Closer. It lists numerous small personal changes which could be certainly seen as helping to improve the world, such as “every time a youth chooses education over picking up a weapon”. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a very good song, but in some ways the positivity seems almost negative, due to its individualist limitations. Of course, as the old feminist maxim goes, ‘the personal is political’, but there is only so far that personal self-improvement can be used to illustrate or overcome societal problems, and so the picture he paints sometimes seems incomplete. And occasionally on Fled The Flock – for instance on the title track and opener Fell To Earth – this individualism is coupled with a certain kind of exaggerated self-importance, almost like a Matrix-ish Neo character – i.e. ‘the one’ who has come to show us the light (“my mind’s too liberated to be sedated by the flock mentality”). It’s all very well fleeing the flock, but if you do, you’re not really in a position to influence it.
Our man’s on much firmer ground when he describes the links between individual problems and the capitalist social system, like he does on Reali T.V. (which holds trash TV to account for the dumbing-down of critical faculties), and the wonderful Remembrance Day, which bewails the utterly futile deaths of soldiers serving the US and UK ruling elites (“I’d rather not remember them, I’d rather they be living”). Finally, album closer What Am I sees the normally straight-forward Yosh wax poetic about his place in the universe, over a gorgeous string section.
Yosh certainly has plenty of skills, even though in my opinion they were better showcased on 2011’s The Poisoning. He definitely has an ability to source talented collaborators, and a knack of coming across 110% committed to what he is rapping about with such spot-on flow. If he can focus on understanding the day-to-day problems facing ‘the flock’, and immerse himself in the unfolding political struggles raging around the globe, Yosh might well find himself a strong voice for a dispossessed generation.
Fled The Flock is available to download from Yosh’s Bandcamp page.