• Fun-Da-Mental
  • Seize the Time (UK Nation/Beggars Banquet) 1994  (Beggars Banquet/Mammoth/Atlantic) 1995 
  • With Intent to Pervert the Cause of Injustice! (UK Mantra/Beggars Banquet) 1995 

In the parade of American musical forms appropriated and creatively reconfigured by British groups, no genre has been more troubling or ill-served than hip-hop. Despite the two countries’ social parallels, modern England has brought a fatal stiff upper lip to rap, producing lily-livered copies that may get the superficialities down but still reek of condescending pretension. Propa-Gandhi (Pakistani immigrant Aki Nawaz Qureshi, who began his music career as the drummer of the short-lived Southern Death Cult, which he co-founded with Ian Astbury) leads London’s phenomenal Fun-Da-Mental, a loosely organized group that makes being different the perfect antidote to being redundant. While there are a few moments of British provincialism on Seize the Time, the long, convoluted album is a powerhouse, jabbing ethnic politics and culture into rap’s rich vein. Along with its principled social outrage, Fun-Da-Mental overloads its careening tracks in the pulse-quickening style of vintage Public Enemy; organically integrated instrumentation like sitar, didgeridoo and tabla gives the album its distinctive sound. Besides touching on African-American activists from Huey P. Newton (“Seize the time” was a Black Panther Party credo) to Minister Farrakhan, the lyrics attest to English realities (as in the solidarity statement of “Dog-Tribe”), imperialism (“White Gold Burger”) and a global consciousness (as in “Mother India,” a thoughtful feminist polemic written and recited by poet Subi Shah). Approaching a related faith from a very different angle than Black Muslim rappers, Fun-Da-Mental’s religious loyalty (in “President Propaganda” and “Mera Mazab”) gives Islamic fundamentalism an entirely new meaning.

Other than a brief recitation at the end, With Intent to Pervert the Cause of Injustice! consists of retitled and word-less versions of first-album tracks including “Mr. Bubbleman,” “Dog-Tribe,” “Seize the Time” and “White Gold Burger,” as well as other instrumental jams. In this context, the pieces all drone together in a tiresome instant-cliché paste of one syncopated dance beat, sampled Middle Eastern chanting and various elements of Indian music. The individual cuts are potent and flavorful, but the net effect is ruined by the overly generous helping.

[Ira Robbins]