Rye Shabby – Arthur Lager (Review)

Reviews, Rye Shabby

In The Balance return after a productive 2016 with their latest release. Rye Shabby brings us his concise seven track EP entitled ‘Arthur Lager’, and it’s an entertaining introduction to Rye’s quirky, boom bap style. He brings a great ear for beats, and witty punchlines to match, but it’s the stories and descriptive writing that make him such a captivating MC. Verb T has recruited some very talented artists for the ITB collective, and Rye is another to add to the growing list.


‘Moscow’ is a chilled, sparkling opener with a crisp, relaxed drum-beat backing intertwining lyricism from Rye as he demonstrates his unique style which matches a storytelling aesthetic with vivid, relatable references. “You can see the mess I’m on. Put the kettle on, I’ll dip a biccy then I best be gone”, he begins on the brilliant ‘Kate Moss’; Rye’s charismatic and confident delivery rides a great line between smoked-out, haziness and animated, assured presence.

Rye Shabby namechecks some heavy UK MC’s on ‘Heat’, and it’s clear that he’s a polished, practiced spitter who can definitely carve out his own lane. The sophisticated boom bap influence across the early part of the EP is achieved with conviction, and Rye’s dense, detailed lyricism is very impressive. Verb T features on ‘Trench Coat’ and ‘Black Is The New Black’; you can see his touch across the In The Balance roster, and the melodic, chilled vibes are a winning formula.

With production from Verbs himself, along with Muckaniks, Illinformed and Sloth, the beats on the EP are classy, moody and suitable for Rye’s unique flow. His skill-set is very impressive; entertaining content, technical rhyme patterns and displays clarity and precision in his delivery. This has definitely got us excited about a full length Rye Shabby project, and In The Balance have kicked off 2017 with a project well worth your attention.

By Sam Bennett






Ran Reed – Still Commanding Respect (Review)

Ran Reed, Reviews

New Jersey MC Ran Reed was one of the most prolific spitters in the mid-nineties, with a formidable catalogue and a name that held weight amongst the heavy-hitters active in the east coast scene. 2017 brings a release of new material entitled ‘Still Commanding Respect’, and it’s an effortlessly executed hardcore boom bap album from a lyricist that crafted his skills in the golden era itself. Ran’s lost none of his sharpness, clarity or prowess, and the twenty track LP proves it.


The summery, upbeat opener ‘Timeless’ is a dope throwback to golden era hip-hop; flashy rhymes delivered with clarity and charisma sound silky over a simplistic, soulful instrumental courtesy of veteran New York producer Nick Wiz. The traditional east coast style comes complete with hard-hitting punchlines; Ran begins ‘Hard Rhymes with “Yo it’s the hard rhymer, I swing swords like Conan”, and his concise punchlines are guaranteed to land decisively, executed with a consistent to-the-point formula. U.G. of Brooklyn duo Cella Dwellas appears on ‘The Crew’, and the frantic production compliments the high-octane lyricism from the east coast icons.

 Ran Reed recruits legendary spitter Bump Knuckles for the furious, indisputably banging ‘Pathetic MCs’; the powerful beat and commanding deliveries of both rappers make for an early highlight, and the animated, punchy flows ride the raspy production with confidence and control. The eery ‘Mind Of A Gangster’ is a brilliantly executed cut; the cocky, smooth flows are laced with precision and conviction, and Ran’s production is on display here too. His beatmaking expertise is widely showcased across ‘Still Commanding Respect’, with the MC handling the majority of the production duties across the twenty track LP.

‘Doo Doo’ is a piano-based beat, and the jazzy, staccato vibe is an instant head-nodder; Ran’s combination of simple, effective beats and consistently dope verses make for a winning recipe, and this is masterful chef in the kitchen. Veteran lyricist Shabaam Sahdeeq appears on the dusty, nineties banger ‘The Innovator’, and the stabbed strings back fierce stanzas as the two experienced MCs show their convincing skill-set. Brownsville duo M.O.P. kill ‘The Gun Boy Interlude’; the collaboration is a synth-heavy banger, and the huge drums pound as Ran, Billy Danze and Lil Fame trade verses displaying their accomplished penmanship with powerful deliveries.

Guest appearances, beats, topics and flair; Ran Reed holds it down from every angle on ‘Still Commanding Respect’. Ran kills the production on the majority of the project, with four tracks being handled by longtime collaborator Nick Wiz, and the consistency is to be applauded. The Jersey rapper calls on an extensive list of fellow writers to bless the features on here, and everybody brings their A game, and Ran is most certainly still commanding respect.

By Sam Bennett






Oh No & TriState – 3 Dimensional Prescriptions (Review)

Oh No, Reviews, TriState

You may be aware of TriState through his work as a part of Durag Dynasty alongside Killer Ben and Planet Asia. The Los Angeles lyricist partners with exceptional beatsmith Oh No, hailing from Oxnard, for a superb full length release entitled ‘3 Dimensional Prescriptions’. TriState is a rhymer who prides himself on complexity accompanied with a pounding, consistently energetic delivery, and Oh No’s versatile style makes this a brilliant collaboration.


The tough opener ‘Showroom Floor’ is a shining example of the authoritative, professional diction of Los Angeles underground stalwart TriState and the jazzy, off-kilter production work of the legendary California beatmaker Oh No. It’s clear from the first track that this is a street-smart LP with an emphasis on hard-hitting instrumentals and ferocious lyricism. The leaders of the new wave of atmospheric, slow-paced and swagged out hip-hop appear on the fantastic ‘Custom’; Oh No and TriState are joined by prolific spitters Hus Kingpin and Westside Gunn, as well as upcoming LA MC Lyric Jones.

The wonderfully chopped ‘Networth’ is a dope soulful cut with intricate verses and precise flows from front to back. Oh No’s tight drums are characteristically banging, and he expertly exploits vocal samples to create a truly remarkable backdrop for TriState to deliver unfaltering raw bars. The gravelly ‘6 Sun Raise Son’ is a heavy cypher cut which features Casual, Brotha J and Bro AA Rashid; ‘3 Dimensional Prescriptions’ utilises Oh No and TriState’s connections in the underground scene. The wealth of talent on display shows that authentic, gritty hip-hop hasn’t gone anywhere, despite what you might read from uninformed whingers on internet forums.

As if you need further proof, West Coast legend Planet Asia appears on ‘Wind Chime Wizardly’, and the sparkling melodies are offset by crunchy percussion and dexterous lyricism from both King Medallions and TriState; the consistency in quality of both beats and rhymes is impeccable, and the album is so entertaining as a result. It’s such a diverse project too; the anthemic, relaxed joint ‘Imhotep’ is one of the highlights. Vivid lyricism and passionate instrumentation make this soulful tune a true success. Straight up gangster attitude shines on the encapsulating ‘Move Script’; Tri spits with believable attitude, and the dusty, cinematic vibe is completed by a stylish showcase from Los Angeles MC Rogue Venom on the hook.

Revered lyricist and beatmaker The Alchemist, Oh No’s partner in crime as a part of fantastic duo Gangrene, appears on the super-chilled ‘Write Wrongs’. The chemistry is so easy to hear, and the restrained execution makes it a late standout. Sharp, flashy bars are delivered with sophistication and experience on the terrific ‘Latest Drug’; the smooth strings, complex rhyme schemes and detailed description make for an outstanding penultimate track. The LP closes out on the slick ‘Exit Thru The Gift Shop’; TriState is accompanied on the microphone by veteran lyricist Evidence, and the raw production is perfect for the two charismatic spitters to vibe to whilst displaying their prowess.

 This is a great project; the verses are concisely delivered, and the cohesive sound of the LP is a true testament to the successful partnership that TriState and Oh No bring to the table. The feature list is extensive and impressive; both respected names and relevant newcomers are fully represented on, and nobody sounds even the slightest bit out of place. ‘3 Dimensional Prescriptions’ is guaranteed to stay in rotation for any true hip-hop head; this one is a masterclass in how to match beats and rhymes with effortless skill and classy results, and we may just have an early album of the year contender.

By Sam Bennett







Strange U – #LP4080 (Review)

Reviews, Strange U

High Focus are back, and kicking off 2017 is Strange U, one of the most dynamic, exciting and off-the wall weird groups we’ve heard for a long time. Veteran MC Kashmere partners with equally revered producer Dr. Zygote for an album that is wildly entertaining, vividly imaginative and downright banging from front to back.


‘Terminator Funk’ is a bouncy, hard-hitting opener, and Kashmere’s precision and enthusiastic delivery is sublimely delivered over a glitchy, instrumental laced with off-kilter cymbals and textured synthesizers that are as frantic as Kashmere’s perfectly executed flows. Blah Records representative Lee Scott appears on the raw single ‘Bullet Proof Mustache’, which is complete with references that are both insanely amusing and undeniably strange, a theme that is a common characteristic of both Strange U and Dr. Scott’s material, so it’s no surprise this track is as successful as it is.

The outlandish imagery and creative punchlines continue on the brash, relentlessly thumping ‘Shots’; the aggressive, in-your-face tone of the album is matched with plenty of unorthodox, futuristic content. Zygote’s grimey bassline and crunchy drums back King Kash as he drops with effortless authority over a tough instrumental. Leftfield samples and instrumentation continue on the blistering ‘Cimmerin Shade’; Zygote expertly crafts cinematic, electronic production that pounds and pounds with crisp drums and inventive synth-work.

‘Grizzle’ is a potential highlight; the funky production with a deep bassline and brilliantly inserted sound effects create a space-age soundscape and Kashmere’s braggadocio raps and laced with quotables only he can bring; “nephilim brains on large barbecues” is a surefire case in point. The ecologically aware ‘Eden’s Husk’ features a traditionally impeccable verse from legendary UK lyricist Jehst, and the thought-provoking, social commentary is delivered in typically eccentric Strange U fashion. The assault of surreal lyricism continues, and the quirky production and bizarre sci-fi-themed verses of ‘Hank Henshaw’ is another compelling cut from ‘#LP4080′; the LP is inspired, and is further testament to High Focus’ increasingly extensive and always impressive roster.

‘Mumm Ra’ is an enthralling, crisp banger that exudes raw attitude and charisma from both producer and MC. High Focus head-honcho Fliptrix appears on the wonderfully sparse ‘Illuminations’, and the entertaining, energetic flows from both Kashmere and Flipper make it a late highlight. ‘Waste Of Space’ is an instant headbanger, with funky double-bass riffs and powerful drums, and the album closes out in sublime fashion with ‘Zuul’, which also features legendary Nottingham MC Cappo who drops an absolutely huge verse on ‘#LP4080’s finale.

There’s not a moment on here that doesn’t hold your attention, and Kashmere and Zygote’s unashamedly weird and off-kilter creation is one that will have you repeating again and again. There’s a great blend of social commentary and hard-hitting bravado in the lyrical content, and the relentless tone of the production allows ‘#LP4080’ to maintain a very impressive level of cohesion and consistency. High Focus have got off to a fantastic start of the year with this release, and with Jam Baxter’s ‘Mansion 38’ just around the corner, 2017 is going to be a very exciting twelve months for the independent powerhouse.

Shaz Illyork – The Sleepwalker (The Wide Awake Prequel) (Review)

Reviews, Shaz Illyork

Underground stalwart Shaz Illyork is a fine example of the slow-paced, stylish rap music that has become a characteristic of New York City rappers in recent times. The Queens MC enlists a host of wordsmiths for his latest project ‘The Sleepwalker (The Wide Awake Prequel)’, including Blankface, Chris Rivers and Innocent, and the hardcore, street-smart vibe is hugely entertaining, and remains so over the long run-time of the LP.


The Wu-esque ‘Make Way For The Gods’ is an early highlight with it’s hard-hitting production and gritty lyricism from Shaz and fellow underground spitter Blank Face. The traditional east-coast feel continues with the sublime ‘The First Sunshower’, which also features Queens MC Starvin B who puts in a stellar performance. The complex rhyme schemes and smooth flows are reminiscent of the long-gone golden era, and the dusty drums are subtle, steady and absolutely perfect for the raw vocals from Shaz and Starvin.

Slow-moving and cinematic, ‘Kandahar Dope’ is another gritty, street-smart banger with a tough, East Coast vibe that Shaz and fellow underground lyricist Tools Beastly tackle with prolific verses packed with grimey swagger from start to finish. ‘Lost Metropolis’ is laced with dope, soulful samples, and the nineties, throwback approach is handled with finesse and expertise. ‘Wild Germanz’ is a fantastic posse cut; epic, orchestral production and hard-hitting penmanship from a selection of independent MC’s including Chris Rivers and Guerilla Nems make it a definite highlight, and any hip-hop head will relish the copious amount of bars on display here.

‘The Sleepwalker’ features a number of really short tracks, and it’s a great recurring theme to have. Shaz never struggles to rip the mic, even if it is only for a singular minute, and the groovy ‘360 2017’ is a perfect example of this fast-paced, blink and you miss it spitting. The album closes out with the anthemic ‘Green Garshas’, and the textured sample-work is brilliantly executed and is a resounding finish to an album that is focused purely on quality beats and raw lyricism.

The cries of “hip-hop is dead” can still be heard from people who think that Lil Yachty and Uzi Vert are the only MC’s on offer in 2017, but a quick trawl through the underground hip-hop blogs can quickly lead you to yet another talented rapper who is pushing top-drawer material. Shaz Illyork fits into that category, and ‘The Sleepwalker’ is a concise, cohesive and consistently gritty project that is a surefire winner for fans of traditional, nineties influenced east coast bangers.

By Sam Bennett






Substantial – The Past Is Always Present In The Future (Review)

Reviews, Substantial

Besides having a terrific name, ‘The Past Is Always Present In The Future’ is a breathtaking showcase of thoughtful, intelligent rap music from one of the genres most underappreciated musicians. Maryland MC Substantial has been putting the work in for nearly two decades, and his longstanding career is full of gems as it is, but as we take the first steps into 2017, it’s important that lyrical, technical skill is brought back to the forefront, and Substantial certainly provides.


A cinematic instrumental laced with swelling percussion and funky guitar licks back Substantial as he establishes the album’s dynamic on the absorbing, captivating opener ‘Exposition’. His vocals are both melodic and powerful, and the Maryland MC’s experience and prowess is immediately apparent. The gritty ‘Made In Maryland’ is a standout; the crunchy drums and jazzy keys are brilliantly executed by renowned Baltimore producer Oddisee, and Substantial is also accompanied by fellow MD artist Steph The Sapphic Songstress.

‘No Turning Back 2.0’ is another favourite; the uplifting, inspirational tone of ‘The Past Is Always Present In the Future’ is a direction that is unfortunately seldom heard in today’s rap-market, even on the underground circuit. Substantial displays his remarkably precise flow, and his commanding delivery makes his verses consistently enjoyable. ‘MLK (Dream Big) 2.0′ is flawlessly executed. The soulful production, provided by The Other Guys’, is blessed with heavy punchlines from Sub and See King. The punchlines are witty and concise, but the overall vibe of the track is intelligent and mature, which is an overarching characteristic of the album. ‘Follow The Master’ is the standout of the album; the groovy instrumental and effortlessly, silky vocals are guaranteed to set your head moving, and the energy is perfectly balanced with a sophisticated presence on the mic.

The production on ‘The Past Is Always Present In The Future’ is so impressive, and the crisp, live-feel of ‘Party With Purpose’ is a great example of the inventive and authentic character of the LP; it’s undeniably catchy, but doesn’t struggle for a moment to retain it’s integrity amongst the conscious, thought-provoking material found in Substantial’s writing. ‘No Better Time’ also exemplifies the grown-man rap that SubStan excels at throughout his fifth solo album, and it finds Cyse Starr of the Florida group Cyne contributing a stellar performance. Substantial’s voice makes use of raw, grimey effects on ‘It Could Happen’, and it’s contrastingly partnered by crisp, shimmering production; the deep, steady bassline, glossy keys and sweet vocal samples are professionally executed and this is an musician in his element.

There’s not a slow-point on the album, and the anthemic ‘The 4our 4ours’ continues the exhilerating experience. Maryland lyricist Greenspan impresses on this joint, and it’s great to see such a healthy dose of Maryland artists on the album. It’s an area that can be severely overlooked in the deep pool of rappers fighting for the public’s attention. ‘Tony Stanza’ finds the respected Cunninlynguists affiliate Tonedeff delivering a characteristically animated verse, and the scope and diversity of the production is once again highlighted, with relentless drums and intense bass culminating in an intricate jazz-piano solo after Substantial has dropped his final bar.

Go and get this one immediately; the maturity and introspection are remarkable, and the quality of writing and instrumentation is truly impressive. ‘The Past Is Always Present In The Future’ is a long-running project at seventeen tracks, but there are so many good moments on here that it doesn’t ever become an issue. There are a variety of styles, subjects and vibes on here, and Substantial’s inspiring tone is enthralling and captivating throughout the album; you’d be a fool to let this one slip by.

By Sam Bennett






Venomous2000 & Trilian – Sounds Of The Great Ones (Review)

Reviews, Trilian, Venomous2000

Prolific underground spitter Venomous2000, heralding from New Jersey, links up with Serbian beatsmith Trilian for the fantastic full length LP entitled ‘Sounds Of The Great Ones’. Dope rhymes, classic beats and a feature-list that is both extensive and impressive mean that this album is one of the highlights of the early weeks of 2017, and the quality of the music means it may well still be sitting at the top when these next eleven months pass us by.


‘Know Things’ is a dusty opener that comes complete with knocking drums and soulful samples, along with solid turntablism from DJ TMB. From the very start of the album it’s clear that this is an unapologetic throwback to the golden era, but with savage delivery and complex, descriptive imagery, Venomous2000 is a great reminder of why the nineties are as heralded as they are.

‘Sounds Of The Great Ones’ truly is an album every underground head will be racing to hear; the feature-list is remarkable. New Jersey group The Artifacts lace the guaranteed head-nodder ‘Hot Damn’, and upcoming female MC Tiye Phoenix also drops a dope verse here. ‘Homecoming’ features a tasteful piano-based beat and soulful vocals from Marie Kanu. Venomous brings clarity and definition to his vocals, and the precise flow sounds impeccably smooth over Trilian’s dope production.

Boston legend Reks and legendary underground spitter C-Rayz Walz appear on the banging ‘Rock The Bells’, and the intricate lyricism from each MC representing on the track make this a prime example of the breed of complex, intelligent writers that have made the east coast such a renowned region for detailed imagery and authentic punchlines. Brooklyn rhymer Shabaam Sahdeeq, along with fellow BK duo Cella Dwellas, feature on the intense ‘Products Of Environment’, and the groovy bassline and layered sample provide a classy backdrop to the selection of heavy-hitters blessing the microphone.

Don’t think Venomous2000 can’t hold down a track on his ones though; ‘Marvelous (Planet-Ill)’ is a crunchy, funk-influenced track with a fresh vibe packed with clear hip-hop sensibilities and inventive, creative references, making it a highlight of the ‘Sounds Of The Great Ones’ LP. The star-studded guest appearances are never far away though; Killarmy representative 9th Prince, Wu-Tang MC Inspectah Deck and underground barsmith NLZ join Venomous on the superb ‘Make Ya Speakers Pop’, before the subtle penultimate track ‘Psalms 76’ provides an uptempo end to a really impressive album.

Venomous2000 deserves far more acclaim and attention than he receives, and ‘Sounds Of The Great Ones’ exemplifies exactly why. His partnership with Trilian is a wholly successful one, and the cohesive nature of the LP is a testament to their collaborative skills. Get this one in your collection this very instant; you won’t regret it, and that’s a Lytework guarantee.

By Sam Bennett







Illmaculate & Calvin Valentine – The Red Tape (Review)

Calvin Valentine, Illmaculate

Illmaculate is a well-renowned MC; you may be more familiar with him through countless battles on a host of leagues around the world, but he’s got a banging discography to go with his clashes. ‘The Red Tape’ is the latest release from the Oregon lyricist, and it finds him partnering with Los Angeles musician Calvin Valentine, who expertly handles Otis Redding samples throughout the project.


The LP gets underway with the storming opener ‘Tell It Like It Is’; crisp, boom bap production backs the Portland MC’s sharp, confident and technical vocal. The unashamed braggadocio is delivered with huge success, and it’s one of the reasons that Illmac is so well equipped to transition from battle rapper to musical artist and back again. ‘Try A Little’ too is another banging cut with intricate rhymes and an encapsulating mic presence.

‘Long Time’ is brilliant. Illmac’s biographical account of his career keeps you hooked on his every line, and the beat is laced with anthemic brass and soulful keys, underpinned by a crunchy kick and beautifully chopped vocals. The picked guitar riff and textured production of ‘Gone Again’ is another track with real commercial, mainstream potential with a really strong hook delivered by Sam Trump and characteristically intricate spitting from Illmaculate resulting in a truly remarkable and memorable tune.

‘New Years’ is another crisp, classy banger, and the soulful, vintage samples across the album result in a sense of continuity and cohesion which makes ‘The Red Tape’ an album well worth checking out. ’10Million’ is packed with sharp punchlines and a witty narrative. It’s a trippy, bouncy joint with a dope, jazzy flavour, and it’s followed up with the flawless posse cut ‘Huffington Post’, which features classic acapella cuts and a crisp, funky beat.

‘The Red Tape’ is a brilliantly executed rap album to start 2017 off correctly. It’s got a traditional vibe to it, but Illmac’s charismatic rhymes and Calvin Valentine’s insanely soulful, punchy production mean that it’s exciting and enjoyable from front to back. With mean punches and a cocky delivery, Illmaculate is an incredibly sharp writer, and Calvin’s chops are also to be fully applauded. This is a great partnership, and Otis would surely be proud of this remarkable, albeit subtle, tribute to the legendary musician.

By Sam Bennett







Spida Lee – Rise Of A King (Review)

Reviews, Spida Lee

Spida Lee has been grinding independently for years; he’s dropped a number of projects that showcase his deep, intellectual lyricism and sophisticated content and traditional delivery, but his 2016 release ‘Rise Of A King’ is the most polished and consistent Spida has ever sounded.


‘Can’t Take Money’ is a brilliant opener; energetically delivered bars are executed with an instantly likable charisma, and the authentic nineties feel is polished and effective. Hard-hitting, crisp drums and silkily chopped samples create a raw, throwback vibes which is perfect for Spida’s old-school tone.

As a renowned Huddersfield veteran, Lee recruits a host of West Yorkshire’s underground scene to represent on a five minute cypher which features appearances from KD, Eskar and The Scriptors amongst a huge list of impressive lyricists you may be unfamiliar with. Throughout ‘Rise Of A King’ Spida Lee’s concepts and content are positive and reflective; he takes an anti-mainstream and capitalist standpoint on ‘Where Will I Go’, and the dusty, jazz influence of the production across the LP makes for a really enjoyable listen.

The summery ‘So Real’ is dope, and showcases Spida’s storytelling ability, painting a vivid picture with a narrative laced with introspective tales and a healthy dose of punchlines. The Huddersfield MC’s inspirational, informative and detailed lyricism continues on tracks like ‘Keep Ya Head Up’ and ‘The Rise Of A King’s closing title-track, and we are also treated to a remix of that final tune, produced by Spida Lee himself.

West Yorkshire’s scene is healthier than ever, and it’s great to see rappers from all areas of the district releasing quality music that is so widely well received. ‘Rise Of A King’ is one to check, and it’ll be one that remains in rotation if you like your hip-hop heavy on the message and the soundscape full in traditional boom bap flavours.

By Sam Bennett






Fliptrix – Patterns Of Escapism (Review)

Fliptrix, Reviews

‘Patterns Of Escapism’ is Fliptrix’s sixth solo LP, and it finds him partnering with RLD beatsmith Illinformed for the entire project. The mature, intellectual lyrical style is perfectly suited to the raw, soulful production style, and this is an album that stays true to the ethos of real hip-hop from the moment you press play on the first track. The High Focus founder rounds off a very productive year for the independent giant with his own project, and it once again proves why HF is one of the most revered and respected labels in the country.


The album gets underway with ‘Astral Paining’; the beat kicks in with a smooth, classy loop and crisp, jazzy drums and Fliptrix sounds mature, experienced and powerful with a commanding delivery and intricate writing. Imagery, metaphors and a reflective outlook are some of the main ingredients in Big Flipper’s style, and they are exemplified brilliantly on this opening track. The title-track follows and it’s another resounding beat with skilfully executed bars; Fliptrix opens the tune with “I stay spitting ’cause i’m outspoken/I’m at the pub outside in the rain smoking/Mans are on the inside clucking getting coke in/It’s been a long fucking day like the summer solstice”. Illinformed is a wizard on the buttons too, with effective, emotive samples and hard-hitting percussion providing an exhilarating backdrop for the ferocious bars.

Veteran UK hip-hop artist Kashmere accompanies Flips and Illinformed on the banging ‘Smoke Lingers Away’. With an authentic nineties influenced beat infused with chopped vocal samples and one of the punchiest kicks you’ll hear all year Fliptrix and King Kash go to work on this one, resulting in one of the LP’s standouts. The raw ‘The Lion’s Den’, with it’s groovy bass and interplaying samples, is another highlight, and ‘Thunder Clouds’ too is a flawless, tasteful cut that pays it’s due respect and homage to the classic music that has so clearly influenced both rhymer and producer. Respected rhymer Life MC accompanies on ‘Diamond Tone’, and it also features DJ Sammy B-Side on the cuts, but it’s Illinformed that shines on this one with a beautifully orchestrated instrumental that draws on a simplistic vocal loop and mellow piano keys; subtlety is a key tool in the RLD beatsmith’s arsenal, and it’s used perfectly here.

The upbeat, anthemic ‘One Time’ is a huge track; with it’s screwface-inducing sample chops and intricate lyricism the partnership and chemistry that Illinformed and Fliptrix draw from is energetic and enthralling. Ocean Wisdom appears on the fantastic ‘Burn It’, with it’s hard-hitting, simplistic bassline and jazzy piano keys which are silkily sprinkled across the crisp boom bap banger, complimented by uptempo, energetic lyricism from both the High Focus veteran and the hugely exciting newer addition to the label. Smoked out single ‘The Chronic’ is a classic Fliptrix banger, and Verb T, Leaf Dog and BVA join on The Four Owls standout ‘That’s You’. The star-studded feature list continues on ‘High Focus’ as Verb T and Dabbla accompany Flips on a track that represents the independent label to the absolute maximum.

The album’s intensity and cohesive vibe continues with the oustandingly raw ‘Disorientated’, which is laced with expertly chopped brass samples and thumping percussion; Illinformed proves himself as one of the best producers in the country with his work on this release. The rapid-fire, intricate schemes of ‘The Poltergeist’ make for an exhilerating listen, and Fliptrix’s savage, commanding delivery makes the track a late highlight. ‘Spread Peace Around’ is a fitting album closer; the soulful beat and positive message fit with the running theme of the LP, and serves as one last piece of evidence for the collaboration between Big Flipper and Illinformed being one of the most successful partnerships of the year.

There’s very little left to be said; pretty much every track on here is a straight up banger, and the rhymes and beats are on point from front to back. The album is cohesive and consistent with a variety of themes and topics, always delivered masterfully by one of the most skilled writers in the scene. As we reach the end of the year, we can look back on a number of fantastically dope High Focus releases, and 2017 is sure to bring us more of the same.

By Sam Bennett