Manchester collective Levelz have been one of the most engaging groups to emerge in the past few years. Their ultra-energetic mix of grime, hip-hop and drum and bass has made the super-group of North West MCs one of the most talked about on the live circuit, and their musical output, although somewhat sporadic, has always been up to scratch. ‘LVL 11’ is the first full length release from the group.
‘Look Who It Is?!?!’ is an absolute stormer of an opening track. Black Josh sets the mixtape off with a signature witty verse laced with dope punchlines, versatile flows and raw energy. Each spitter in the Levelz crew has their own charisma, whether it’s northern veteran Chimpo, or longstanding MC Skittles who blends hyped content with intelligent lyricism and a fantastically percussive delivery. I could go through the whole line-up, but it’ll suffice to say that it’s not a roster any MC should challenge lightly.
‘King Of The Disco’ is funky and quirky. Before listening to this project, I wondered whether it would be in-your-face, pedal to the metal material from start to finish, but on this track the Levelz crew that they can switch the concepts up. It’s not deep or particularly meaningful, but the vibe is organic, the rhymes slick and Metrodome’s production is flawless. ‘Rowdy Badd’ takes a frantic direction, with the Manchester crew delivering lyrics about their intoxicated antics on the town with pace, precision and skill.
Skittles’ ability of matching intensity, charisma and humour with socially conscious, intelligent writing has always made him an engaging MC to listen to, and Drug Dealer finds him and the Levelz crew exhibiting this over a groovy instrumental; the eclectic musicality showcased on the ‘LVL 11’ mixtape is captivating and impressive. ‘LVL 07’ is one of the insanely energetic cyphers previously released on YouTube (if you’ve not seen the visual be sure to do your research), and it sounds as fresh as ever. I’m glad it’s included on the project. Truthos Mufasa, Skittles and Black Josh standout, although Chimpo’s segment is genius. Everybody goes in though, and it’s tracks like this that show just how consistent, versatile and talented the Levelz collective are.
‘LVL 09’ is another one you might recognise, and the menacing, trap influenced production is crisp and intense, and the various flows and deliveries bring a relentless attack of hyped bars and verses. ‘Ninja’ is another heavy, bass-driven cut; the production is on point throughout the mixtape, and allows the Manchester group to deliver an eclectic mix of style. Sure they’ve each got electronic, energetic elements, but there is still noticeable variety, and the cohesive feel is testament both to the lyricism and the production on display. ‘How To Party’ is another track you just can’t help but start to move to; head-nod, screwface, some undercover twitch at 3 AM. The funky synthesizers give the track a viable crossover appeal, without losing any of the integrity that has made the collective so deservedly popular.
‘LVL 11’ is a unwavering, 56 minute ride of hard hitting beats, frantic flows and an energetic masterclass in uptempo MCing. With a certain amount of viral success at the back end of 2015, it’s great to see them match that online buzz with quality music.
By Sam Bennett