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

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.

a2801530687_10

‘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.

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.

0008571252_10

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

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@MrFliptrix

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

http://www.high-focus.com

Confucius MC – The Highest Order (Review)

Confucius MC, Reviews

YNR are one of the most respected record labels putting out consistently dope UK hip hop. Their latest release is The Highest Order, the debut album from Confucius MC. This is straight up boom bap hip hop, and it’s expertly done. 

ynr059-front-cover

Confucius MC made his name as part of =CoN+KwAkE=, a live duo made up of one MC and one drummer, and has supported talented artists such as Slum Village and Mos Def as part of the aforementioned group. This album sees him stand out on his own, spitting bars that show his prowess on the mic. The album has a maturity about it, and Con’s rhymes fit perfectly with the beats, provided by Parisian producer Keor Meteor.

This album features some great Jazzy drum breaks, and the whole vibe of the album means that it could slot into any hip hop friendly jazz club and go down a storm. The Highest Order is a great track, with a fantastically dusty feel. With intricate flows, Confucius has a great tone for this 90s style production, and the more relaxed sound to the beats means this album stands out from a lot of the more hardcore and aggressive hip hop coming out of the UK.

The Highest Order also features some dope soulful tracks. One of these is Eyes To The Sky. With some great multi’s and a very chilled vibe, this is exactly the kind of hip hop YNR has specialised in for years. With artists like Jehst and Kashmere signed to the label, it’s impressive to see Confucius drop a debut album that stands aside the work of these veteran rappers, and I’m looking forward to hearing future projects from him. If The Highest Order is anything to go by, Confucius is set to be a prolific artist within the scene.

This is a great album, and with no guest appearances on any of the 14 tracks, it really gives you a chance to appreciate Confucius’ ability and sound. Any fan of boom bap, golden era hip hop as well as fans of jazz influenced rap music will definitely enjoy this album

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@ConfuciusMC

http://www.ynr-productions.co.uk