Jam Baxter – Mansion 38 (Review)

Jam Baxter, Reviews

With his fourth full length studio album, revered MC Jam Baxter delivers creative lyricism and imaginative angles in abundance on ‘Mansion 38’, the latest release from the insanely talented High Focus Records. The LP is orchestrated by the versatile producer Chemo, and the pair continue the groundwork they started on Baxter’s last album ‘…So We Ate Them Whole’, but things get a little more gloomy this time round.

Opening with the anthemic and traditionally vivid ‘Down’, the tense, overcast and encapsulating ethos of the album is instantly apparent. Chemo’s synthetic, glitchy production moves seamlessly with Baxter’s unique structure and dense lyricism. ‘Dumb’ features Trellion and Lee Scott, and the combination is as witty as you would imagine. Trellion has been on an incredible run recently, and the slow-moving boom bap is perfect for the cleverest dumb bars you’ve heard since the last Trelli verse you clocked. The double-time flows and sparse beat is a brilliantly successful formula for the cinematic ‘For A Limited Time Only’. The Contact Play MC blends a mixture of weird imagery and complex, layered writing with a cocky, street-smart vibe that makes his material wildly entertaining.

The trapped out ‘Soi 36’ is an absolute banger; the single from the album exemplifies Baxter’s flawless ability to mix an unashamedly leftfield vibe with a current, accessible presentation. Lee Scott appears on the flawless ‘Titanic 2’; the bouncy, pounding instrumental, skippy, imaginative flows and cutting, satirical lyrics make the swagged-out track a standout. The charisma on display here from two of the UK’s leading artists is a testament to the talent on offer from the crop of MC’s active right now, and High Focus is a well oiled platform for these wordsmiths to shine. ‘Just Us’ is a characteristically off-kilter introspective cut, and Jammothy’s rugged lifestyle is described in great detail over a bouncy Chemo soundscape. The use of the word ‘shmerkle’ in a bar also deserves respect in it’s own right.

‘Bulletproof’ is a highlight, and the silky piano-based beat is perfect for Baxter’s smooth flow and eclectic bars; he drifts from topic to topic seamlessly and with an underlying gritty undercurrent to his writing. Fellow CP spitter Dirty Dike accompanies on the crisp ‘Chateaux In Toulouse’ which also finds fellow Dead Player Dabbla killing his verse, as is always the case for the veteran MC. The collaborations sprinkled across ‘Mansion 38’ are utilised excellently, and the album maintains it cohesion throughout, and the gifted Chemo must get a lot of the credit for that. The sophisticated ‘Teeth Marks’ is expertly executed with complex lyrics lacing the sporadic drums and haunting synthwork, filling the space with finesse and masterful precision.

‘Mansion 38’ is a exhilerating album that gives a fascinating insight into one of the most creative and talented lyricists of our generation. Jam Baxter has been quietly growing his stature in the UK scene (possibly the cringiest sentence on this blog yet), with a string of quality releases, and this LP solidifies his place as one that is surely to continue his ascent with future work. As diverse as they come, Baxter is such a clearly gifted lyricist, and Chemo such an amazing producer, it’s really no surprise at all that this is an early contender for album of the year.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@ActualJamBaxter

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

http://www.high-focus.com

Moreone – Turn Back (Review)

Moreone, Reviews

In The Balance Records, the label founded by veteran MC/producer Verb T, properly announces its arrival with ‘Turn Back’, an EP from London MC Moreone. He has previously released projects as part of the duo Morbiddenziller; the ‘Number One Fan’ EP in 2013 and the eponymous full length in 2014. This EP features three tracks, each produced by Verbs himself, as well as a remix of each track (from Chemo, Illinformed and Leaf Dog), and the dense lyrical content and crisp, tasteful production combine with great results.

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‘Turn Back’ is an introspective opener, and Moreone rhymes with cutting impact. In the opening verse he spits ‘I’m no scholar but I was taught by the school of the hard knocks/For every Corsa bought another car’s robbed’, and the detail and honesty are impressive over head-nodding, spacious production; the thumping kick-drum and ambient synth pads back tight flows and thoughtfully structured rhyme schemes.

‘Most High’ is a highlight. The vibe and content may be very much on the chilled and mellow side, but Moreone’s lyricism is by no means simplistic or surface-level. He displays a variety of flows, intelligent writing and the concept is executed flawlessly. His voice is sharp, and his delivery powerful and effective; across the ‘Turn Back’ EP, Moreone shows that he is definitely an exciting prospect, and one to keep a keen eye on heading into the new year.

We haven’t quite turned all the way back yet though, there are three remixes also included on the EP. Chemo’s remix of the title track gives it a more hard-hitting, menacing vibe than the original, although it retains its subtlety and poignancy. Illinformed’s remix of ‘Holding On’ is another standout, I actually prefer it to the original version. The boom bap production backs Moreone’s skillful flow, and his delivery is powerful over the bluesy sample flip. The EP closes with a Leaf Dog remix of ‘Most High’; classic lazy, punchy drums and swelling brass samples make for an anthemic finish.

‘Turn Back’ definitely bodes well for 2016, both for Moreone and for In The Balance. The EP is consistently interesting and exciting across the three tracks and three remixes, showing versatility and a cohesive vibe. The beats are dope, the production is dope, what else do you want?

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@More1

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

http://www.inthebalancerecords.bandcamp.com/album/turn-back-ep

Onoe Caponoe – Voices From Planet Cattele (Review)

Onoe Caponoe, Reviews

High Focus kick off 2015 with Onoe Caponoe’s first release on the UK powerhouse label, an album produced entirely by Chemo entitled ‘Voices From Planet Cattele’. Onoe’s style is immediately interesting; he’s one of the most distinctive voices in the scene, with his unique brand of psychedelic tales and consistent flows. 

Onoe Caponoe - Voices From Planet Cattele - Front Cover

From the filtered voices that welcome you to the world in which the planet Cattele resides, it’s clear that this isn’t going to be your standard rap album. Caponoe absolutely kills the opening track; ‘Space Bitches’ features punchy boom bap production, with haunting keys topped off with weird, electronic high frequencies. It’s production choices and lyrical concepts like the ones displayed on the track that give this album such a distinctive character.

Chemo’s production talents are showcased incredibly on ‘Voices From Planet Cattele’. The partnership is one that works in sublime fashion, with many of the albums tracks having room for Chemo to add his own trippy electronica in instrumental sections. Songs like ‘Moon – Galactico’, which features short bursts of Onoe spitting and consists mainly of Chemo’s fantastically layered atmospheric synths and frantic, hard hitting drums, are prime examples of this.

‘Disappearing Jakob’ is another highlight, with Onoe Caponoe’s consistently tight flow laced over a slow paced, hazy beat. ‘Space Jungles Of Cattele’ features left-field instrumentation and vocal processing, with the pitch shifting and filters adding to the psychedelic feel and inventive nature of the soundscape found across the album. Another highlight is the only track with a guest verse, provided by the legend that is Jehst. Billy Brimstone delivers a characteristically intricate, fierce verse on ‘Goth Bitches’, displaying exactly why he’s viewed as one of the top lyricists to ever come from these shores. Onoe Caponoe impresses as well on the track; their chemistry is definitely effective.

‘Voices From Planet Cattele’ is one of those albums you can listen to front to back and feel it’s really taken you on a journey. This is something more abstract than your typical UK hip hop release, and it’s a departure from much of the more traditional, boom bap influenced High Focus material, but slots in nicely amongst the Jam Baxter’s and Edward Scissortongue’s as a prime example of the excellent and experimental hip hop that is being produced in this country.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@OnoeCaponoe169

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

http://www.high-focus.com

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Jam Baxter – …So We Ate Them Whole (Review)

Jam Baxter, Reviews

Every time a High Focus Records release comes around I struggle to find new words to describe the massive influence they have over, and the fantastic music they contribute to, today’s UK hip hop scene. ‘…So We Ate Them Whole’ is the new record from Jam Baxter, one of the most intricate and descriptive lyricists operating in the game today, and it’s solely produced by the exceptional Chemo. The album features vivid, detailed metaphors in abundance, and Chemo provides consistently hard hitting production, whether it’s on a more hip hop vibe, or on Dead Players esque tracks like the lead single ‘Leash’. 

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The album starts off with the haunting ‘Wings Cost Extra’, which finds Jammy B weaving intricate bars over minimal keys and jazzy drums. This project instantly seems like a more mature Baxter, with perhaps a more personal approach than his previous work, despite still maintaining the layered and veiled  content that is so effective. The aggressive and convincing delivery on ‘Incoming’ is perfectly matched to the spacey, futuristic instrumental. JB’s choice to work with Chemo was definitely a wise one, as the crunchy, boom bap drums are present throughout the album and, blended with his unique, electronic approach, is so well suited to Baxter’s distinctive style.

When ‘Leash’ hit my YouTube screen a couple of weeks ago, it smacked me in the face with such force I don’t think it came off repeat all night. Jam Baxter’s ability to absolutely kill this amped up style of production has always been apparent, but it was on his collaboration album with Dabbla (as Dead Players) that its full potential became so obvious. This track continues the vibe of that album, and it’s another absolute banger. The glitchy, abstract beat found on ‘Everything’ is definitely a standout, and the haunting left-field instrumental backs Baxter’s intelligently placed multisyllabics and intricate flow. This is definitely an example of Jammothy exploring new avenues and styles, but he always keeps the mood consistent, and the partnership with Chemo has definitely resulted in an exceptionally cohesive album.

The importance of the smart and perceptive production that Chemo contributes cannot be understated, and this is as apparent as ever on ‘Vines’. The atmospheric and spacious beat gives Baxter room to deliver his cleverly crafted lyrics, and the use of smartly placed vocal samples only adds to the tense backdrop. The only guest appearance on the album is on ‘Menu’. This track finds Jam Baxter and Dirty Dike trading verses about their appearances on the road, both approaching the track with an inflammatory and cocky perspective, and it’s definitely a highlight. DJ Sammy B-Side laces the track with his signature cuts, and no High Focus album would be complete without an appearance from the resident turntablist.

‘…So We Ate Them Whole’ is a truly dope album, with cohesive production and intricate lyrics from beginning to end. Jam Baxter and Chemo have created a vivid, haunting project, and the unique approach of both MC and producer combines to result in another hard hitting High Focus project. These boys are constantly releasing quality music, and their reign is only just beginning.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@ActualJamBaxter

@HighFocusUK

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

http://www.high-focus.com

Parallax – Depth Perception (Review)

Parallax, Reviews

Parallax is an exciting prospect. Hailing from the capital city, he specialises in the boom bap sound of the 1990’s, blessing smooth, chilled beats with his ferocious tone and flow combined with complex, skilfully crafted lyrical content. Depth Perception is an EP consisting of 5 tracks (plus intro), and is one for any fan of the golden era. 

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Hip Hop Philosophy is the opening track, and it’s a dope one. Parallax spits some nice multi syllabics, with a tight flow weaving over a jazzy instrumental blessed with some dusty brass samples. Parallax drops into some great double speed bars on this track, and this definitely has a great impact. Sam Ziricon and Parallax himself provide the beat for Hip Hop Philosophy, and it’s an excellent summer chiller.

Strength features a sick soul influenced instrumental, and allows Parallax to really show his writing ability. This is a classic, raw hip hop track, something we don’t hear particularly often anymore. The M.O.P. samples definitely help keep the head nodding to the maximum throughout this track. Parallax has a great talent for writing some fantastic extended multisyllabic rhyme schemes, evident to hear in the ‘Bringing defeat/Riddles are deep/Cripple your fleet/Christopher Reeve’ scheme heard in the second verse.

Punchlines don’t fall short of the mark on Depth Perception. ‘Your backs up against the wall like a stop and search’ is just one of the many hard hitting punches on ‘Walking On’. It always makes for a good listen when an EP, mixtape or album goes back to the winning formula of authentic boom bap beats and a focus on lyrical punchlines with a heavy delivery.

Depth Perception is a very good EP which is guaranteed to please any fan of raw hip hop. Parallax is definitely one of the ones to watch in the UK scene, always killing a track, whether it’s on the deeper end of the spectrum on tracks like Justice or Rat Race, or whether it’s showing off on a lyrical exercise steez. This is most certainly worth a listen.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@Parallax_UK

http://www.parallaxofficialstore.bandcamp.com