Some people get it misconstrued. The UK hip hop scene is pretty healthy no matter where you are, and Leeds City is no exception. Defenders Of Style have been putting the work in, releasing their first project back in 2009, with ‘Thoughts Of The Nameless’. They’ve consistently been releasing gritty, witty and raw hip hop with a number of heavy projects, and ‘Sense Outer Madness’ is Joe Snow’s debut solo album. Snow’s individual and unique flow is a real breath of fresh air, with a skippy, slightly old school feel, over a bunch of tight, boom bap beats.
The menacing piano led instrumental of ‘Frank White’, courtesy of Blah Records beatsmith Reklews, backs Joe Snow as he starts the album in hard hitting style. His percussive delivery is very effective, and it’s the perfect way to kick things off. The double-time spitting that is one of Snow’s characteristic traits is something that few can pull off to its full potential, and Joe’s method of slipping into this often enhances his already dope flow. ‘Mr. Nice’ is on a relaxed vibe, with Joe dropping bars for the stoners, and it’s delivered in a smooth and calm way, and the Leeds MC demonstrates some nice wordplay and a series of witty punchlines. Bradford based producer JND contributes the beat for ‘Loose Chains’, and the DoS representative drops politically aware bars with a storytelling style; we’re only three tracks into the album but already Joe Snow is switching up the vibes, giving us a diverse and interesting listen. Fellow Defenders Of Style members Prys and Jack Danz crop up on the raw ‘D.G.A.F.’, and the chemistry of the three Leeds MCs is clear to hear. Each spitter drops a series of savage punchlines, showcasing the rap talent that exists in abundance in Northern England.
‘Great Dane’ is one of the standouts of the ‘Sense Outer Madness’ project. Snow’s relatable bars are delivered with an on point flow over a more uplifting instrumental when compared to the gritty boom bap of much of the album, and this makes for another piece of welcome variety. ‘Times Change’ is another highlight, with a hypnotic instrumental and Joe Snow spitting about how the scene has progressed from when he first started rapping to the present day, and those changes aren’t always positive. Joe can make a really solid track when he’s just purely spitting bars, but it’s the more concept driven tracks on ‘Sense Outer Madness’ that stand out for me. ‘Pusha Man’ is a track for the hustlers, but don’t get that twisted and expect some over the top bravado; Joe delivers his bars dropping real knowledge about the game over a mellow instrumental with well structured multisyllabics, and a fantastic percussive scheme to start the track.
‘Sense Outer Madness’ is a really solid project from a unique MC. Joe Snow has a very individual style and he switches up his flows and concepts throughout the album, as well as rocking a wide and diverse range of beats. It’s nice to hear this array of different moods being tackled, and it makes for an interesting album that definitely holds your attention. It’s still very much an example of quality underground, boom bap influenced hip hop, and this is something that the Defenders Of Style have been specialists in since their inception, and Joe Snow holds down the solo duties extremely well. This is certainly one to check.
By Sam Bennett