Leaf Dog – Dyslexic Disciple (Review)

Leaf Dog, Reviews

As a member of a variety of incredible groups, as well as being one of the most sought after beatmakers in the United Kingdom, not to mention a classic 2011 LP ‘From A Scarecrow’s Perspective’, Leaf Dog is one of the most respected and talented artists out there right now. 2017 finds him standing out on a solo tip once again with ‘Dyslexic Disciple’, released through the UK powerhouse High Focus Records, and featuring appearances from some of the finest vocalists in the country.

When your minute and a half long intro is released as a preview for the LP on YouTube some weeks before the full length drops, and people are as gassed over it as they would be a structured single, you know you’re doing something right. The anticipation for Leaf’s sophomore solo effort has been huge, especially with the abundance of quality material he has given us since 2011s ‘From A Scarecrow’s Perspective’, and the follow-up gets underway with a bang. ‘Big Ego’s’ is a soulfully driven track with melodic keys spliced between the crunchy drums and soaring string samples; Leaf is a superbly skilled beatmaker, but he is no slouch with the pen either, as he delivers raw and honest opinions throughout the ‘Dyslexic Disciple’ album.

The raw, punchy ‘Know Myself’ is an early highlight. The confident delivery, the identifiable lyricism and the smooth, flawlessly executed instrumental are the ingredients of this flavoursome dish that blend together seamlessly, making for a perfect showcase of the signature Leaf Dog sound.  The crisp, soulful and reflective vibe of ‘Today’ is classic, golden era influenced hip-hop at it’s best, and the distinctive style of his subtle production is wonderfully engaging with soaring strings and emotive vocal chops. Joe Corfield contributes an inventive, silky instrumental for the jazzy standout ‘All In One’; the intricate plucked guitar and crisp drums are a perfect backing for Leaf’s energetic, charismatic lyricism.

Fellow RLD representative Smellington Piff appears on the emphatic ‘Pro Cultivation’, and smokers around the country will be keeping this one on repeat for months to come as Leaf and Piff deliver intoxicated verses at an insanely high potency. The rousing call to MC’s around the country on the single ‘My Scene’ is dope too; the anthemic horns and head-banging percussion makes for a definite standout, and the message is sure to inspire upcoming lyricists to continue on their quest to produce quality British hip-hop music. Revered LDZ MC Dabbla accompanies on the lively ‘Good Times’, setting up a strong selection of collaborations to close out the ‘Dyslexic Disciple’ album in stunning fashion.

‘Last Laugh’ features fellow Brother Of The Stone BVA along with the legendary Jazz T, and the stuttering, old-school beat is a fitting backdrop for the authentic, hard-hitting vocals and sublime cuts. The following track ‘The Reminder’ also features BVA; the chemistry the two spitters have is instantly apparent and unrivaled by their peers, and this is a prime example. If that wasn’t enough though Leaf recruits the off-kilter extraordinaire Kool Keith to deliver a characteristically entertaining verse over the raw self-produced instrumental, and surely this is the cherry on the cake. Don’t speak too soon though; the album closes out with the breathtaking cypher entitled ‘The Legacy’. It features a selection of the finest writers in the UK scene, and Leaf can also boast that he had both Phi Life Cypher and Task Force on the same track in 2017, and who ever thought that would be possible.

 Banging beats, a unique voice and clear hip-hop enthusiasm and appreciation runs through the ‘Dyslexic Disciple’ album from beginning to end, and the high standard that the High Focus label holds itself and its artists too continues with this emphatic release. Leaf Dog has produced a quality LP here, and the resources he pools (both in terms of rappers and producers) make for a cohesive album that is sure to satisfy any boom bap aficionado. Stop whatever you’re doing and go and support this release, and please Leaf, let’s not make it another six years before the third one.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@MCLeafDog

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

http://www.high-focus.com

Illinformed – The Mould Tape (Review)

Illinformed, Reviews

RLD Records, the label headed up by BVA and Leaf Dog, add to their growing list of quality hip-hop releases with ‘The Mould Tape’. The album comes from Illinformed, a producer who specialises in funky boom bap, who also happens to be Leaf Dog’s brother. The album features appearances from a vast array of the finest UK wordsmiths, including Jam Baxter, Fliptrix, Jack Jetson, Split Prophets and Eric The Red (the third brother; that’s one of the rawest families in hip-hop), amongst many many others.

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BVA’s solo cut ‘Still Slippin’ is an early highlight. With an intense instrumental, and a decisive delivery from BVA; the production is memorable and the writing intelligent. The album is packed with hard hitting posse cuts, and ‘War Drum’ is one of the sickest. Index and Smellington Piff have perhaps the verses with the most impact, but the line-up of six MCs is versatile and interesting. The tight flows and effective rhyme schemes demonstrated by BVA, and the charismatic, punchline heavy showing from Leaf Dog on the simple, gritty production makes ‘Back Down’ another great track.

‘My life’s a dish best served steaming’ says Jam Baxter on ‘Half Dead’. The gloomy instrumental is suited as Baxter, Lee Scott and Bill Shakes drop verses with vivid imagery and humourous references, Lee for example spits ‘chonging a cig like Dot Cotton’, and later requests that the other rappers he’s just ‘sonned’ refer to him as ‘Dad’. Manchester rapper Cheech and Blah Records spitter Stinkin Slumrok join for ‘Blunt Rock’. The jazzy sample work and crisp drums back the melodic flows of Cheech, and the grittily charismatic delivery of Slumrok perfectly.

‘The Platoon’, an uptempo cut that features Bristol collective Split Prophets, is another standout. Each MC represents to the fullest. The SP crew have a wealth of talented lyricists, and they each deliver on this track. ‘Smokey’ is a jazzy affair, and Cracker Jon, Verb T and Life MC trade off each other with three absolute killer verses. The album closes out with a solo track from J-Man; ‘Gettin Mouldy’ is a tune with a nice concept, and J-Man’s versatility is ever impressive, and here he displays his skill for dope hip-hop.

‘The Mould Tape’ is a really great project. Illinformed has a really cohesive sound, with a diverse array of collaborators, and that is a winning formula. Some albums from producers sound forced, or sound confused, but that isn’t the case here. There’s not a track that needs skipping, and a listen from start to finish is enjoyable. RLD have impressed again with this.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@IllinformedProd

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

http://http://www.rldrecords.co.uk

Smellington Piff – Notice Of Eviction (Review)

Reviews, Smellington Piff

Smellington Piff has been surrounded by a fair amount of hype for a while now, and it’s understandable when you’re running with two of the UK scene’s heavy hitters, BVA and Leaf Dog, and you’re signed to their talented and impressive RLD Records, not to mention dropping a consistent output of quality music in the run up to this debut solo album. ‘Notice Of Eviction’ is produced in its entirety by Leaf Dog, and Smellington Piff’s original, unique, cutting and sharp flow is completely at home. 

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‘Notice Of Eviction’ gets underway with the hard hitting boom bap of ‘Opposites Attract’. The piano based beat, complete with funky guitar samples and crunching kick and snare backs Piff as he drops bars with his signature intricate writing style. Leaf Dog provides a characteristically dope, soul sampling backdrop on ‘End Of Discussion’, and the RLD MC raps with confidence and energy, with too many resonating bars to count, spitting ‘I hold no wonga/This time next year I’ll still be a plonker’. ‘Gorilla Growers’ is the next cut, and the stoner anthem finds Piff alongside Son Doobie of the LA based Funkdoobiest, as well as BVA and Leaf Dog, who contributes slick horn samples and banging drums as well as a nice verse.

The frantic instrumental for ‘Site’ is suited perfectly to Smellington as he delivers bars about his way of life and upbringing, with scathing analysis along with dope lyricism and consistently good writing; a standout for me is ‘Passing through your town like a stream/If home’s where the heart is, I live on my sleeve’. ‘Notice Of Eviction’ has one of the best starts to an album I’ve heard for a while, every track is heavy, and there’s definitely variation here too. ‘The Base’ is a highlight, with Piff joined by Cracker Jon, Jack Jetson, Eric The Red, Leaf Dog and BVA on a smooth and jazzy beat. Each MC delivers a nice verse, and it’s always great to hear some of the UK’s sickest spitters going back to back.

‘Authentic Fakes’ is another instant head-nodder. Rag N Bone Man provides yet another incredible hook, he always delivers when recruited to drop a chorus. Smellington brutally delivers his bars, and they are always excellently structured, such as when he drops ‘Fuck your hollow lies, just apologise, act like you mean it/Or burn like a phoenix, I mean this’. ‘Food Chain’ demonstrates once again Piff’s relatable bars with a storytelling vibe, and his concept works very well. ‘Real Life’s Happening’ finds Smellington dropping a horde of heavy similes, summing the scheme up with ‘I say like a lot coz I like it a lot/And I don’t care if you like it a lot’ . Another highlight is ‘Ununited Kingdom’; something that impresses throughout ‘Notice Of Eviction’ is the fact that Smellington Piff always has real content in his tracks, and this is key to the effectiveness of his music.

Smellington Piff and Leaf Dog have made a fantastically cohesive album, filled with absolutely banging UK hip hop. The collaborations are well chosen; Verb T and Fliptrix appear on ’80 Degrees’, Piff drops socially conscious bars with LIFE on ‘After The Storm’, Bill Shakes delivers a dope verse with his Northern swagger on ‘Mad Man’s Anthem’, alongside another impressive Leaf Dog appearance, and Lee Scott kills the chilled and soulful ‘Riddle Me This’ with a characteristically cocky verse. Smellington Piff’s writing is impressive throughout, and he suits Leaf Dog’s golden era, instant classic production style perfectly. And this is his debut album? Watch out for this one.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@SmellingtonPiff

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

http://www.rldrecords.co.uk

Cracker Jon & 2Late – You Can Take The Cracker Out Of Croydon (Review)

2Late, Cracker Jon, Reviews

High Focus never seem to slow down. This is the latest release from the UK hip hop powerhouse; a full length album from the Croydon duo Cracker Jon and 2Late. ‘You Can Take The Cracker Out Of Croydon’ is a dark, head nodding, funky journey back into a forgotten style of hip hop, reminiscent of Redman in his hey-day. This is a unique UK take on 90s hip hop; this isn’t the same old boom bap revival you’ve heard countless times already this year, this is a smokey ride through some dope beats and breaks, and Cracker’s witty lyrical content and choppy, gritty flow is perfectly suited. 

Cracker Jon & 2late Front Cover

The first time I listened to this album was on a train journey, and as ‘What You Prefer’ started to sound through my headphones the ‘tickets please’ sample was rather disconcerting. ‘I don’t like responsibility when i’m at work/To sit at home and get stoned is what I prefer’ is the bar that Cracker Jon kicks his verse off with, and it’s quotables like this that make him such an interesting and engaging MC to listen to.

‘The Funk Off’ is a dope posse cut, with a sick video to accompany it (check that on youtube). Cracker’s verse is laced with some well written multi syllabics such as ‘Memories glowing/Extendedly flowing/Better be knowing/Any opponent’. The choppy flow is something that has always drawn me to Jon’s music, and is ever-impressive. The ‘stop taking pictures of yourself in stupid poses’ bar is another example of Cracker Jon’s talent for peppering his verses with witty one liners. Smellington Piff drops one of the albums standout verses; ‘The security on the door was more blind than Blunkett’ is one of the best references i’ve heard for a long time. Eric The Red also comes through with a punchline heavy verse, it’s going to be interesting to watch the RLD Records talent grow in the near future if these 2 verses are anything to go by.

Obnoxious is my personal standout track. It sees Cracker Jon & 2Late team up with 2 of the UK’s finest rappers. Dirty Dike opens the track with a perfectly suited bar. ‘I snap a cats leg off and fuck a dog with it’ made me reload the track so many times. Lee Scott also tears the track up, with an expertly delivered verse. It’s always good when an MC on his debut album enlists veterans for a collaboration, and Cracker Jon holds his own amongst 2 of the UK’s most supreme lyricists.

You Can’t Take The Cracker Out Of Croydon is an excellent UK hip hop album. Cracker Jon has a unique flow, with consistently on point content. Going from witty references to weed and booze to scathing social commentary in 2 bars is a common occurrence, and 2Late’s funky baselines and drum loops provide the perfect soundtrack. Fliptrix spits 2 sick verses (his appearance on Think About It is an absolute classic), and this is yet another fantastic slice of UK hip hop to come out of the High Focus camp.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

http://www.high-focus.com