Agallah – Agnum Opus (Review)

Agallah, Reviews

Agallah is one of the most respected spitters in the game; the east coast wordsmith has been representing New York across all corners of the globe, and his formidable lyricism commands both the respect and attention of those in his presence. ‘Agnum Opus’ is a short, cohesive project. At an eleven-track runtime, The Don Bishop weaves his way through the self-produced soundscape with insightful verses laced with his ever-sharp knack for grimey punchlines.

Ag opens the project with his traditional raw, hard-hitting demeanour; the intense, spacious instrumental of ‘Finito’ allows The Don Bishop to convey his rhymes with intent and an impactful delivery, and the gritty specialist is still as compelling as ever. The soulful, punchy production of ‘Top Of The Food Chain’ makes it an early highlight, and the veteran Brooklyn spitter exhudes confidence. His longevity has been characterised by his gravelly tone, polished flow and battle-ready punchlines, and in later years he has matched this with an accomplished maturity in both production and lyrical ability.

The dramatic production and slow-moving, savage writing from the established East Coast artist are a winning formula on the dense, textured banger ‘Blood On The Grams’. Ag’s distinct New York flavours make his verses relentlessly energetic across the duration of the LP, and the consistently pounding drums hold the combination together unfalteringly. The jazzy keys on ‘Metaphorically’ are matched with chopped vocal samples and a frantic, in-your-face drum break. Agallah demonstrates his precise flow, intellectual writing and rhythmic agility with a masterful touch. The LP finishes with ‘Act Accordingly’, and it closes out another seamless project to add to the catalogue.

Versatility, showmanship and an effortless presence, Agallah delivers top quality material throughout ‘Agnum Opus’. His gritty, street-smart lyricism and expert production touches are a testament to his all round skill-set. Ag is hip-hop through and through; he’s been grinding for years, and is still releasing exhilerating, high-brow rap music for the underground connoisseur decades after first entering the game.

By Sam Bennett




Von Poe VII – The Hype (Review)

Reviews, Von Poe VII

Von Poe VII is a representative of the Riverside collective Organized Threat, and he has been slowly building a following with the release of some quality, well-received albums over the past two years, and ‘The Hype’ completes a trilogy of LP’s with resounding success. Poe has released music under some different aliases (you may have heard of him as Poetic Death), but this latest project finds him delivering on all fronts, with an engaging maturity and undeniable skill.

Opening with ‘Voicemails From Joogy’ is a melodic introduction, and the twinkling, jazzy piano keys find Von Poe demonstrating a sophistication and effortless precision that instantly sets you down and prepares you for the next fifty minutes of stylish lyricism. The maturity in the Riverside spitter’s content is executed beautifully on ‘Youth & Adolesence’; the reflective verses are masterfully composed, and the captivating vocal performance and soulful production make this track a remarkably absorbing experience.

The slow-moving subtlety of ‘Vices’ makes it a highlight from ‘The Hype’. The eclectic flows, retrospective writing and strong melodies make the LP accessible for the casual listener and substantial for those that want to divulge the content explored and lessons taught through Von Poe VII’s expert craftsmanship. The soulful, upbeat funk influence of ‘Self Love’ is reminiscent of recent Anderson. Paak and Kendrick Lamar material, and with the intelligent lyricism and discerning musicality displayed throughout the LP, Von Poe VII should be well on his way to being mentioned amongst such respected company.

‘Iscariot’ is a raw and gritty banger, and the moody piano sample creates a hazed out, intense mood for the savage west coast wordsmith to paint street-smart pictures with a confidence and swagger that rides the line perfectly between distinct Californian inflections and east coast inspired boom bap beats. Von Poe VII’s intricate rhymes and provocative lyrics on ‘Staccato’ make it one of the LP’s most cuts. The crisp, reverb-drenched snares keep the charismatic, free-flowing delivery perfectly in the pocket, and the hypnotic, dreamy guitar samples are another example of the consistently accomplished production-value found on ‘The Hype’.

With sparkling keys once again lacing the track, the instrumental of the title-track exemplifies the uplifting, jazzy direction of the album. The unorthodox flows and quality melodic undertones explored across the release make Von Poe’s ability and depth as an artist clear to see, and the talented musician exhibits an experienced and accomplished presence whenever he graces the microphone. The LP finishes on the fantastic ‘Closure (No Apologies)’, and the modern, summery vibe is accompanied with characteristically humble, insightful writing from the Riverside rapper, whose bars, melodies and choruses are faultless from start to finish.

‘The Hype’ is an incredible piece of music, and hopefully the title is a nod to things to come for the insanely talented Von Poe VII. Some well chosen guest appearances and a consistent, cohesive backdrop to his technically gifted, eclectic lyricism. There’s not a weak track to be found here, and upon reaching the closing stages you’ll be astonished at how this guy is still bubbling below the radar. Be a part of the movement before it’s common knowledge.

By Sam Bennett





Bisk – Yasuke (Review)

Bisk, Reviews

Bisk returns with yet another project for fans of the underground lyricist to fiend over; the brilliantly consistent and dedicated wordsmith drops ‘Yasuke’, a six-track EP produced entirely by veteran rapper and producer Lee Scott. The subtle, lofi production is matched with smoked out, gritty verses from Bisk throughout this succinct project.

Blah Records veteran Salar accompanies on early highlight ‘Nina’; the slow-moving, dark flavours of the instrumental are perfect for Bisk’s hushed, menacing tones. Salar’s cocky delivery and hard-hitting quotables are on full display too, and the collaboration is a testament to the longstanding quality of the Cult’s material. The Blah camp has been ahead of the curve since it’s inception, and it’s great that those so important to it’s early success are still putting in the work. ‘The Art Of War’ is a crisp, jazzy cut and Bisk’s intricate writing, creative references and raw vocal are endlessly entertaining. It’s no surprise he’s one of the most hotly tipped MC’s on the circuit right now.

The stuttered snare drums and complex lyricism of ‘Ronin’ make it a memorable track; the building intensity and aggression are enthralling, and Bisk sounds so comfortable as he laces the off-kilter beat with his precise, recognisable flow. Salar appears once again on the dusty banger ‘Tzunami’. The simple loop allows the Liverpool and London spitters to weave seamlessly across the chopped samples, and the attitude and confidence on show make for one of the best tracks from the ‘Yasuke’ EP. Precise internal rhymes and hard-hitting punchlines of ‘Ravioli’ make it an energetic closer, and the concise project is masterfully executed and undeniably entertaining from start to finish.

Serving as a prelude to a full length Bisk project with Lee Scott as the sole producer, ‘Yasuke’ is another dope release to add to the growing catalogue. Bisk’s versatility and creative style makes him a truly distinctive artist, and the sheer abundance of quality material the London MC is bringing to the table makes him one of the most interesting characters in the scene. Blah Records already carries a formidable reputation, but with releases and artists of this stature on it’s roster, the collective is only going to continue grow.

By Sam Bennett





Jehst – Billy Green Is Dead (Review)

Jehst, Reviews

Every few years the UK scene is refreshed by the return of one it’s greats. Jehst is one of the most respected, influential and consistently brilliant rappers on the circuit, and in his later years he has grown much beyond the traditional hip-hop sensibilities he made his name with. ‘Billy Green Is Dead’ sees the legendary MC explore off-kilter beats and complex themes throughout this release, and Jehst’s penmanship is still as smooth as it was in the late nineties.

The album gets underway with ‘Billy’s Green Theme’; Jehst has developed such a stellar reputation due to his identifiable, incredibly relatable lyricism and sophisticated, ultra-calm delivery, and this opener puts Billy Brimstone’s skill-set in full display. Jehst fully embraces the futuristic, leftfield sound of the experimental on this release. Tracks like the intense, glitchy ‘Kennedy’, which features fellow YNR head Confucius MC, are hugely captivating; both the production and the lyricism shows such depth, and Jehst’s years of experience in making boundary-pushing, mature hip-hop make the quirky sound of this release another effortless achievement.

The synthetic, sparse ‘Household Name’ features Jyager, and the eighties-influenced production with it’s groovy bassline and swelling synths, is a great backdrop for the two lyricists to ask a number of questions to both themselves and the listener. They describe the mundane, celebrity-obsessed culture of our times with cutting detail and witty observations. ’44th Flour’ is a raw, lofi banger, and the muffled drums and distorted synth-lines allow Jehst’s complex writing take centre stage. The single has already had a hugely positive reception online, and deservedly so; the track still stands strong in the context of the album though, and the unashamedly weird sonic-direction of the album is endlessly entertaining.

The jazzy ‘Smoke Screen’, which finds Ennio Lion and Mr. Thing accompanying (alongside an uncredited Rag N Bone Man), is a return to the familiar smoky boom bap that Jehst is so formidable at. There’s a reason he has inspired a generation of British MC’s, and it’s the tasteful execution showcased on this cut that is so important in his reputation being so revered. The intricate, subtle ‘Eulogy’ is a definite highlight from ‘Billy Green Is Dead’; Jehst’s lyrical prowess is on full display as he drops witty punchlines with an impeccable flow and experienced delivery. He’s one of the most consistent MC’s in the game, and he’s as strong in 2017 as when he first burst onto the scene.

Another year, another quality album boxed off from Jehst. The catalogue is increasingly impressive, and ‘Billy Green Is Dead’ finds Jehst sounding more mature, diverse and thought-provoking than ever. The LP is sonically challenging, but it’s well worth the effort to fully appreciate the talent on display here. The loose-narrative is enthralling, but the story told through Jehst’s channeling of Billy Green is one we can relate to, and it’s this characteristic that makes the YNR founder one of the finest lyricists around.

By Sam Bennett





Blacastan & Stu Bangas – The Uncanny Adventures Of Watson & Holmes (Review)

Blacastan, Reviews, Stu Bangas

Blacastan is a familiar name in underground hip-hop circles. The Hanford, Connecticut rapper has gained notoriety with a steady stream of albums that pride themselves on lyrical content, and as a member of the formidable Army Of The Pharoahs collective. ‘The Uncanny Adventures Of Watson & Holmes’ finds him collaborating with respected beatsmith Stu Bangas on the follow up to their 2014 release ‘Watson & Homes’, and it’s another dope one for Blacastan’s ever growing high-calibre catalogue.

The electric guitar laced ‘Lucifer’s Sickle’ is a fitting opener for the LP; the album is stylistically geared towards the grit and as far away from the glamour as possible, and you couldn’t get a duo more apt at delivering that than Blacastan and Stu Bangas. Connecticut lyricist Apathy features on the relentlessly banging ‘Summa Cum Laude’, which also employs DJ Slipwax on the cuts, and the overload of punches is sure to have fans of the ultra-aggressive style smashing rewind. ‘Commando’ finds Stu Bangas contributing a sparse beat with sharp, interjecting stabs that allow Blacastan to showcase his dexterity as he adapts to the leftfield production like only a professional could.

‘Blac-O-Teric’ is a brutal onslaught of bars from Blacastan and Esoteric. The two respected underground spitters demolish an unconventional beat, and Stu once again displays his enthralling versatility with this captivating production. ‘War Crimes’ is a Hanford to Queensbridge connection, as Blac recruits veteran MC Tragedy Khadafi for the upfront, in-your-face bar session. That trend continues with the breathtaking ‘Sin City’. Stu and Blacastan are completely in sync, and the technical skill of both beatmaker and lyricist is tremendous.

It’s a testament to the respect the AOTP representative commands that so many revered writers are featured on the LP. Ill Bill and 7L appear on the brilliant ‘Delete’; Bangas often reaches for electric-guitars to form the basis of his beats on the album, and the spy theme-esque sequences are perfect for the concept of the LP. The haunting, eery sound of ‘Murder Mystery II’ makes this a highlight, and Blacastan displays his storytelling ability, and the scope of his skill-set is exemplified across the album.

This collaboration is an example of when a rapper and producer are on the same page, and the results are unfaltering and stellar. ‘The Uncanny Adventures Of Watson & Holmes’ is a masterclass in unapologetic, hardcore hip-hop, and the unique sonic direction that Stu Bangas showcases here is a perfect partnership for Blacastan’s razor sharp tongue. If you like your raps upfront and in your face, you need look no further than this.

By Sam Bennett





Ramson Badbonez & DJ Fingerfood – Hypnodic (Review)

DJ Fingerfood, Ramson Badbonez

Revered MC Ramson Badbonez partners with producer and turntablist DJ Fingerfood for the wildly entertaining ‘Hypnodic’. The concise thirteen track album features a selection of heavy lyricists and production that will have those necks snapping in that familiar rhythm from front to back.

The title track is an early reminder of Ramson’s savage flow and charismatic style. His tone is perfectly balanced between aggressive energy and experienced clarity, and the raw production is the perfect backdrop. ‘Stir Fried’ is a quirky boom bap banger, and Badbonez drops descriptive punchlines with his characteristic hard-hitting delivery. ‘Hypnodic’ has a fantastic run of tracks to get underway; the crisp, jazzy samples of ‘Find Me’ are beautifully executed, and Fingerfood’s cuts are a welcome addition.

Frequent collaborator M.A.B. blesses the punchy, bouncing beat of ‘Anti Convo’, and the chemistry between the two gritty lyricists is blindingly apparent as they trade battle-ready stanzas over the rough and rugged instrumental. The legendary MC and producer Leaf Dog accompanies Ramson on ‘Mental Clix’, and both artists deliver unorthodox flows over the traditional production, which employs dramatic samples to build the intensity until the track comes to it’s conclusion.

Split Prophets representative Res One features on the amazingly titled and blistering banging ‘Komodo Saliva’. The boom bap afficionados display their technical writing and twisting, turning flows delivered with an impressive precision. Ramson recruits some excellent guests on this project, and it’s dope to see him collaborate with artists outside of the High Focus pool of talent. For instance, Deeflux’s appearance on ‘Solitude’ is flawless. It’s one of the standout cuts from the release, and it’s great to hear the prolific Farnborough MC get some exposure to dedicated HF heads.

‘Hypnodic’ is certain to be a fan favourite, and deservedly so. Ramson Badbonez and DJ Fingerfood deliver track after track of raw, high-octane lyricism and cohesive, crunchy production that results in a consistently entertaining release. 2017 has been another year of solid releases from the High Focus camp, and we’ve still got plenty of months left.

By Sam Bennett





Bisk – Gutter City (Review)

Bisk, Reviews

London MC Bisk is one of the most consistent and entertaining writers active right now. He’s been releasing a steady stream of quality projects, and ‘Gutter City’ is the latest in the ever-growing catalogue. Released through Radio Juicy, the eighteen-track album features Stinkin Slumrok, aptly credited on the front cover, featuring on five of the songs on here, alongside a selection of top drawer lyricists. If you’re familiar with Bisk’s work then you know that this is going to be good, if not then strap yourself in and turn up the dial.

‘Guttercitysh!t’ features Stinkin, and the looming, murky beat is comprised of pounding, lo-fi kicks and haunting sound effects. Bisk and Slummy both deliver verses packed with charisma and unorthodox swagger, and this LP is a memorable showcase of their dynamic flavours. ‘Wildcheese’ is a definite standout. The slow-moving cut features intense verses from Jack Danz and Slumrok; the eclectic styles on display are flawlessly balanced, and the production is impeccable too. Bisk’s skill is perhaps best exemplified over gritty, off-kilter production; a perfect example is the brilliant ‘Mynigga’. The track clocks in at under two-minutes, and the prolific, dexterous vocal is executed with an effortlessly mellow delivery.

‘Smoke’ is a track that has been doing the rounds on soundcloud, and from the moment the raw loop kicks in it’s easy to see why. Slumrok, Sniff, Danz and Bisk drop flawless verses laced with witty punchlines, and the melting pot of styles and accents results in a clear-cut highlight. Jack Danz once showcases again his penchant for cutting, hard-hitting quotables here; he spits “Modus operandi. We treat a rock of mandy like some popping candy”. I mean, come on. Bisk recruits Blah veteran Sly Moon for the jazzy ‘Coldsagfunk’. The reverb drenched snare and crisp hi-hats back the two lyricists as they spit with a silky demeanour and smooth flows on this classy track.

The glitchy ‘SwampaZe’ features West Yorkshire duo The NorthaZe, and this is a collaboration that was meant to happen. Bisk, Kosi Tides and Swish move seamlessly over the bouncy instrumental, and the leftfield approach makes this a brilliantly exuberant track that illustrates the wealth of talent on display. ‘Ere’ is a characteristically dark banger, and is a fantastic ending track (not including the outro ‘Uzi’); the sparse drums and screwface-inducing bassline are a winning formula, and Bisk’s menacing delivery is the final piece of the puzzle.

‘Gutter City’ is a cohesive body of work, and Bisk’s unique style is captivating for the duration. Dope collaborations and seamless production are key ingredients, and the standard of writing on display here is tremendously impressive. This isn’t a stroke of luck though; Bisk’s discography is packed to the brim with heavy releases, and if the recent past is anything to go by, there’ll probably be another banging project from Bisk online somewhere before you’ve finished reading this review.

By Sam Bennett



Daniel Son – Remo Gaggi (Review)

Daniel Son, Giallo Point

Canadian lyricist Daniel Son partners with grimey British beatsmith Giallo Point. The two artists specialise in silky, authentic cuts and this collaboration is sure to have already attracted the attention of those in the know. Both of these musicians have discographies packed with classics, but both are criminally underrated for their craft. With the release of ‘Remo Gaggi’, with features from Saipher Soze, Raspy, Blizz and Lil Eto, that is all about to change.

The sublime, sophisticated and infectiously simple ‘Big Remo’ is a terrific opener. Giallo incorporates cinematic samples and Daniel’s imagery laden rhymes are delivered with a compelling attitude. The Ontario rapper displays top drawer penmanship, and his flow is precise without exception. ‘Book Stores Bermuda’ again finds Giallo Point employing a restrained, subtle technique, and this is a trademark found throughout the eleven track project. Daniel Son shines over this style of production, and his writing is at home, allowed to take     centre-stage at the forefront of the mix.

Son’s charismatic, unashamedly cocky vocal is expertly executed on the flawless ‘Six Foot’. With tense, spy-theme influenced samples and a streetsmart performance from the skilled MC, Giallo and Daniel cook up a standout with this track. The recognisable sample on ‘Frigid Knights’ is flipped in a unique way; Giallo’s chops are constantly impressive, and it’s his ear for traditional samples, whilst always maintaining his own sound, that is the backbone of this fantastic project. The material these two are bringing on ‘Remo Gaggi’ is truly exhilerating.

‘Car Seizures’ features Blizz on the chorus, and the raw, hard-hitting track is a testament to the versatility of both Daniel and Giallo. With that being said, it’s still the unmistakable sound of the duo. Expensive, lavish lyricism is laced over the crisp samples and consistent, crunchy drums; if you’re still spending hours complaining about the state of hip-hop right now you really need to do your homework. The penultimate track ‘Snow Cup’ is a resounding song, with luxurious, soaring strings providing the backdrop for more of Daniel Son’s trademark blend of gritty lyrics and regal references.

For any fan of boom bap production, soulful music, real lyricism and dope hip hop, this has got to be a no brainer. Daniel Son and Giallo Point are representing that authenticity to the fullest on ‘Remo Gaggi’, and this has crept in unannounced as one of the best projects released this year. The Crate Divizion and Brown Bag Money families are killing it with an abundance of consistently banging projects, and they show no sign of slowing down.

By Sam Bennett





Milks & G8 – Food 4 Thought (Review)

G8, Milks, Reviews

Sheffield wordsmith Milks, who is a member of the blistering Scumfam collection, partners with fellow South Yorkshireman G8 who solely handles the production with a distinguished sound and clear experience. ‘Food 4 Thought’ is a concise, cohesive effort, and it’s sure to introduce new listeners to the thriving Northern grime scene.

Milks recruits Kdot for the banging ‘GMW’. A catchy hook comes before a tirade of witty punchlines and aggressive, relentless flows from the two Scumfam representatives, and the pounding kick and arpeggiated synth is intoxicating and guaranteed to keep you skanking from start to finish. Milks’ high pitched tone and herbalist bars are consistently heavy, and Kdot’s instantly recognisable Sheffield swagger is a perfect addition to this early highlight.

‘2 Be Real’ is one for the old-school heads, and Milks keeps the lively vibe interesting with an upbeat, classic 80s influenced beat which samples the anthemic Cheryl Lynn hit of a similar name. ‘Track8’ features fellow Sheff spitters AK, Kutta1 & Tempo, who accompany Milks with frantic bars and a grimey stomper of a beat produced by G8, who handles the beats across the entire span of ‘Food 4 Thought’.

Milks has a knack for mixing authentic grime flows and attitude with catchy hooks and radio-ready production. With a huge variety of flows in his arsenal, something which is clear on ‘Coming Up’, the hybrid of a traditionally hype 140 vibe with an accessible, club-friendly backdrop is well executed on the mixtape. ’24 Hours’ is a more hip-hop influenced track, with a simplistic piano based beat and intricate writing delivered in Milks’ unmistakable tone.

Milks demonstrates his eclectic selection of flows and styles with this project, and the lyrics are consistently executed with an effortless finesse. The production is key to the cohesion on display across ‘Food 4 Thought’, and the chemistry between Milks and G8 is refreshingly entertaining. Let’s not make this one the last.

By Sam Bennett






Ray Vendetta & Teslas Ghost – The Odd Couple: This Thing Of Hours (The Prelude) (Review)

Ray Vendetta, Reviews, Teslas Ghost

Triple Darkness rappers Ray Vendetta and Teslas Ghost join forces on this great selection of tracks, compiled as the prelude to a properly packaged release. Before that though, we are treated to ‘This Thing of Ours’, which serves as an introduction for the duo, as they brand themselves The Odd Couple for an eleven track boom bap extravaganza.

The project opens with the subtle, twinkling keys and soothing vocal sample of ‘Oath & Testament’, and the traditionalist vibe is clear from the outset. Ray and Tesla have such authoritative tones and raw, braggadocious lyricism laced with a clear dexterity and quality penmanship. The glorious production on the sublime, ultra-relaxed ‘Despicable Class’ is fantastic, and the cocky bars are delivered with flawless execution and smooth flows from both Ghost and Vendetta.

The groovy, infectious bassline and crisp drums of ‘Growth’ make it a clear standout from the project. The Odd Couple have an exhilerating chemistry; Tesla Ghost and Ray Vendetta bring a unique blend of streetsmart, gritty lyricism and a classy swagger that allows their verses to hit with powerful precision. ‘If Only’ exemplifies the impeccable sample resourcing that is a key to the success of ‘This Thing Of Ours’. Killarmy affiliate and veteran underground stalwart Falling Down is the orchestrator of the selection of soaring vocal flips and consistently dope loops.

The fantastic ‘Say It’ draws on an Otis Redding sample, and the hard-hitting, crunchy drums back a simplistic brass loop as the two London spitters showcase their savage penmanship on this undisputably banging cut. ‘This Thing Of Ours’ closes out with the title-track, and the textured instrumental, with it’s stuttering kicks and resounding, layered melodies, backs Teslas Ghost and Ray Vendetta as they exhude confidence. It’s certainly deserved after they’ve provided verse after verse crammed with tight punchlines and slick references across the project, and remember it’s only a prelude.

Any fan of UK lyricists, or of the kick and snare based hip-hop of the nineties will find Ray Vendetta and Teslas Ghost effort here a welcome break from the over-produced sound found on commercial stations these days. Triple Darkness command great respect on British shores and beyond, and rightfully so, but The Odd Couple and ‘This Thing Of Ours’ is distinctive from the TD movement, and it’s executed with engaging professionalism and undoubted passion.

By Sam Bennett