RELEASED - 20/07/2009
RATING - 4/5

SOS hails the long awaited return of Kyza, the UK rhyming heavyweight.
The title, Shots Of Smirnoff is a double meaning representing the emcees lyrical shots and more importantly his overcoming of alcoholism.

The project's intro (we'll call it a project as it's not an album and it's not a mixtape due to a mix of existing and original beats) gives newcomers an idea of the kind of lyricism you can expect from the Ladbroke Grove heavy spitter, and for those who are aware of Kyza Smirnoff the 2Tall produced 'Murderman Intro', proves that it may have been a while but he hasn't missed a step. With just under 2 mins of build up SOS blasts into the already infamous Chemo produced 'Sin City' featuring D'Ablo. With a heavy soundtrack Kyza pounds out lyric after lyric projecting his outspoken views on society.

The track is somewhat cut short by the fader happy Foreign Beggars affiliated DJ No Names. SOS is then thrown into the sloppy guitar heavy track entitled 'The King'. The backing, courtesy of King Knut, as a conceptual beat would be a good listen... No doubt Smirnoff holds down the lyrical content, but the overall effect leaves you wondering what you've listened too.

After 'The King' the project picks back up with Kyza pulls out the smooth vocals on 'Zonin'. Dented Records state that critics ask whether it is actually Kyza singing throughout the project! If that's the case they need hearing aids, this is nothing more than Kyza offering up alternative vocal tones. Doubling as an actor, you can see that KS's presence is assisted by this alternative artform. 'Zonin' offers a more thoughtful emcee projecting his thoughts, with the lyrics flowing much like a poem, the theme of being in your own thoughts and drifting to another place is well

The 'Exit Wound' starts off with all the dark elements all too well known in UK Hip Hop, but whilst Kyza flows to the rhythm a slow but noticable development takes place, offering up a strong scratch hook supplied by 2Tall. BUT! just as your head starts nodding No Names once again drops the joint to make way for the next track.

'The Dirtiest' feels abit like the lyrics in Exit Wound' and 'Murderman Intro' have been thrown in a washing machine on 90 degrees, mashed up and added to some humorous references to Ricky Hatton. no doubt on it's own this track would have more impact, but it sounds similar to previous tracks on SOS. One thing that saves the track is the strong background that creates a nice overall vibe.

The Puzzle is a serious strong track, with Kyza's lyrics spanning from family situations to Martin Luther. At some points it feels like you are listenning in on a private conversation between Kyza and his unkown God, begging for answers. The beat and rhymes gel well together, providing a welcome break from the street tracks.

From this point Kyza takes SOS on a different route with a full length 2 verse track called 'My Soul'. The piano driven instrumental suits KS's rhythmic strong points. This is like a life story in a track, with Kyza explaining how he has struggled with demons on a day to day.

WIth the end of 'My Soul' SOS picks up the pace with the B-Side release to Sin City called 'Go' produced by Bless Beats, who's credits include Wiley 'Wearing My Rolex'. This a fast paced Grime inspire rhythm with Kyza destroying the double-time flow. Lyrically this may not have the same depth as The Puzzle, but Kyza rides the beat effortlessly, and the catchy incredibly simple hook will ensure a rewind.

The samples at the start of 'Dumb' are nicely placed and without a doubt represent a hype track. Undoubtedly Kyza's unique skill in the UK scene is to blend the grimey with the poetic, and 'Dumb' is a great example of this. The simple backdrop gives Kyza room to breath, and presents rhymes like 'Bring out the Branston / The whole game's in a bit of a pickle!'. Smirnoff's humour and references to the day to day stand out from the pack.

'Deal With It' returns to the Biggie style Kick In The Door rhymes, but somehow our emcee pulls it back with gems like 'Sat in the bath, chillin while i'm listennin to Dilla / Sippin Vanilla...Watchin Itchi The Killer'. You get the feeling that Kyza is angry with the lies and pointless statements that are made by wannabe gangsters. When you listen more closely Smirnoff paints a picture of a chilled out guy who wants a simple life, chillin, watching films, playing games and living an easy life. This message is carefully hidden but the message is still clear.

The mix is nicely blended into 'Freddy' which creates the crazy story of Fredric Clapperman. With a number of voices and personas Kyza creates a one many army, equal to the sound created by a featured emcee. Kyza is a brave emcee taking on a complex track, and hats off to him he destroys the beat and concept. This Angel and Demon story gets your heart beating that little faster, wondering whats going to happen to Freddy. With a nice little intro and outro presenting a confident and exuberant Kyza this is a string track from start to finish.

With the rollercoaster that is SOS we dip down into a mellow and thought provoking track entitled 'Wild Child'. Every line offers sadness and solitude, with Kyza bearing his sole in more ways than one, including an incredibly soulful self-sung hook. The story could easily be the backdrop to a street documentary on young girls taking the wrong routes in life. You feel for the subject, and much like 'Freddy' theres something that draws you in, wanting to know the ending. The cinematic style lyrics are an all too rare technique used in Hip Hop and Kyza is a fine craftsman in this area.

By the time you reach 'It's Yours' you start to realise that this a rich and varied project. The beat sounds like a traditional Greek backdrop switched up with beatboxin and soul claps! Ok, that may sound a bit obscure, but the point is that this track certain offers a different sound. The scratch hook with the world famous 'it's yours' sample sounds suprisingly fresh, with an on form Kyza flying through the one verse track which ends too soon, purely for the reason that your left wanting more.

'Problem Kid' answers the question of 'which beats aren't original' but regardless of this Kyza makes this beat (which we wont reveal!) his own, especially with some dope breakdowns used as breath points for this fast paced rhyme reminding you why Kyza is respected on all levels.

No Names flows onto 'Don't Touch Me' an african drum driven track is big, bold, brash and any other reference to lyrically showing off! The Hook gets you nodding your head. Twinned with the loose and bouncy drums and Kyza's punchy adlibs you feel like you're being prepared for something bigger.

And guess are! Dirty, The first release from SOS earlier in the year. Once again Ghosttown roles up with dark yet smooth rhythm. Kyza illustrates that he truly is a Jack of all trades. This isn't the kind of track to listen to with your Grandma. Smirnoff is all out showing off as a fiend for ladies. True, this a constant theme in Hip Hop, but suprisingly Kyza offers up some witty references that keep you entertained for 3:49.

Finally we reach the end of Shots of Smirnoff, and in all honesty this has to be one of the best tracks released in 2009, irrespective of artist or genre. Ghosttown and Kyza join forces on a perfect combination of inspirational lyrics and a Kate Bush sampled instrumental. Once again KS offers his vocal talents which perfectly compliment the overall vibe of the 3 music inspired verses, with brilliant and subtle references to a vast range of musicians from a variety of eras. Kyza happily refers to his inspirations from Nirvana to Spandau Ballet all the way to the Hip Hop heavyweights. Just as the track seems complete Ghosttown creates the perfect bridge that adds a final touch to a mature and elaquent track.

Overall SOS is a solid project and from new listenners to fans of Terrafirma and his previous LP 'The Experience' this has something for everyone. As much as there are a few dip points Kyza comes strong, and proves that lyrically he deserves to be classed as one of the UK's best rhymers.

Reviewed by Vice

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