Reviewed by George Luke
Derek Dasafo, aka Sway, is one of the bright young things leading the charge for home-grown urban music talent in the UK; a heavyweight up there with the Dizzee Rascals, Chipmunks and Tinchy Striders (actually, he's been on the scene slightly longer than at least two of those acts). I'm guessing I've been asked to review his now three-year-old debut album here because of his recent appearance at Greenbelt, where he performed as part of his commitment to Platform 1 - a Government initiative run in conjunction with some Christian NGOs, which gives young people the opportunity to get involved in social action projects abroad. Herein lies my problem. Musically, I'd have no qualms about giving this album 10 squares if I were reviewing it for a secular mag. But reviewing it in a publication where I have Christian culture (and all its attendant baggage) to consider, I'm not so sure. 'This Is My Demo' is not a Gospel album. That said, it's a lot more moral than the stereotypical guns-n-bling crap most Christians associate secular hip-hop with, and Sway definitely resides at the more intelligent end of hip-hop, alongside rappers such as Mos Def, Talib Kweli or Common. There's no denying that Sway has a spiritual side either - even though it does get slightly confusing on the opening track, when you have a Muslim prayer coming out of your left speaker and the Lord's Prayer coming out of your right. In places, this album makes extremely uncomfortable listening, as Sway plays several different characters - some less savoury than others. "Pretty Ugly Husband" is a case in point. It makes sense in context (Sway's in character as a really abusive, extremely jealous husband with serious anger management issues), but that doesn't make it any less harrowing. Even when he gets romantic - on the soulful "Back For You" - there's a sting in the tail. But along with the heavy stuff, there are some laugh-out-loud moments of light relief. Through his alter ego MC Charlie Boy, Sway makes some very amusing references to his Ghanaian heritage. In fact, with this album, Sway has articulated the lives of just about every black British kid with African parents in the most honest, most hilarious way imaginable. Musically, 'This Is My Demo' can't be faulted, and it already has an armful of accolades from the urban music cognoscenti to prove this. Just approach it with caution; that's all I'm saying.
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