Hands Are Made for Working, by Guvna B
Suggested by Andy Scott-Morrissey
My dad’s dead.
He died about 20 years ago, roughly when I moved to Leeds. He died of organ failure due to alcoholism. He was around my age, maybe a few years older than I am now. His death was unexpected, a classic bolt from the blue.
It was early January, just after the Christmas break. I lived on the Wirral but worked in Leeds, looking to move in the next few months. I remember doing my three-hour train commute from Birkenhead, walking into the office and getting a phone call from my mum as I reached my desk. I turned around and travelled three hours back home. That was my dad. Great sense of timing.
I took a few days off work, as the family rallied round. There was crying, and remembering, and a funeral, and a few pints. Then it was back to the day to day. Onward.
I’ve a variety of friends in this group. At the top end, there’s my wife, who is a melancholy member of the Great UnRandomised. There’s gaming friends, Uni friends, school friends, bandmates, acquaintances and more. The old Facebook Gumbo, every stripe and hue.
But no matter how I know you, I’m sure you’ll all agree that this is a pretty weird way to begin an album review.
Hands Are Made For Working is the eighth album by Guvna B, a Christian rapper and important British Hip Hop influence. And it kicks off, minute one, with Carry On, a slow, personal track about the apparently recent death of his father.
I mean, that’s fine. Sing about what’s important to you, what’s real. I get it. But it’s odd as an album opener. As someone coming in blind, I have connection with Guvna B. I never even knew Guvna A. Surely the way to elicit emotion is to show me who you are before hitting the sob story. You don’t rock into a job interview and tell people about your sick grandmother before you get to your seat. Decorum demands small talk, and there’s precious little of it here.
As the songs continue, it becomes clear that Guvna B’s dead dad will be a recurring theme. Again, that’s fine, but it’d be pertinent and powerful if he’d given me something other than Much Sadness since track one. It may seem heartless, but it could almost be a drinking game. He’s mentioned his dad again, take a shot.
When not rapping about his dad, Guvna B raps about Jesus. It’s uplifting stuff, inspirational messages to a disenfranchised youth. Things will be better if you embrace the Lord. Religion simply isn’t my thing, but your mileage may vary on this matter. I find the messages denounce taking an active participation in self improvement, instead opting to place your trust in an external entity so to absolve you of any responsibility for your actions. But, as Tim Minchin says, I quite like the songs.
Musically, Guvna B feels tame in places, almost Black-Eyed Peas and straight R&B. When he’s more acerbic, I’ve more time for him, such as on Dun All the Hype and my favourite Aight Boom, but on the whole this album feels like 10% song, 90% X Factor Sob Story. I give it 4/10, and my hands are used for turning it off.