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

Advertisements

Creatures Of Habit – Test Subjects (Review)

Creatures Of Habit, Eric The Red, Illinformed, Reviews, Sean Peng

Creatures Of Habit, comprised of MC’s Eric The Red and Sean Peng along with beatsmith Illinformed, release their full length studio album entitled ‘Test Subjects’ after anticipation for the LP had been growing with the release of some well received singles. Each member of the crew has been putting in the work in their own right, and coming together as a unit has huge potential to result in some certified head-nodding classics being delivered.

a0842448098_10

The LP’s opener is ‘The Itch’, and Illinformed crisp drums and signature chopped samples is laced with energetic, charismatic lyricism from Eric The Red, followed by Sean Peng’s hard-hitting style. The combination of rappers is dynamic; Eric’s high-pitched tone and off-kilter flows and Sean’s more traditional approach is really effective and keeps the sound interesting and unpredictable. ‘Roll At Dawn’ is a heavy cypher featuring the Real Life Drama roster, and if you weren’t already familiar with the label (headed by Leaf Dog and BVA), you need to step out from underneath that rock. ‘Hacked Gack’ is a silkily executed jazzy number, and Illinformed works magic with the crisp drums and brass-riff that is an instant earworm.

‘Self Portrait’ is a mellow standout, performed with confidence and sophistication from the Creatures Of Habit representative; the writing is refreshing due to it’s vivid, imaginative and concept-driven content, and Illinformed’s production is absolutely flawless. The excellent run of tracks at the beginning of the ‘Test Subjects’ LP continues with ‘Mucky Mouth’, which features Gee Bag and Leaf Dog, and the raw, energetic cut is sure to be kept in heavy rotation. The upbeat, soulful ‘The Corrupt’ is punchy, decisive and relatable, and the following cut ‘Adventures Of Shroomlock & Dropsome’ is wildly entertaining. The eclectic mix of styles makes the album full of twists and turns; from animated, funky rhythms to slow-moving, smokey jazz-flavours such as the superb ‘Too Stoned’.

‘Test Subjects’ is an album full of charm; the combination of Eric The Red, Sean Peng and Illinformed is fantastic, and the authentic hip-hop is packed with likeable charisma from every member of the Creatures Of Habit crew. With labels such as Blah Records and High Focus going from strength to strength, it’s well-worth reminding yourself that there’s a host of other record labels producing top-draw music, and Real Life Drama have certainly delivered the goods with this one.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@EricTheRedRLD

@SeanPengRLD

@IllinformedProd

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

http://www.rldrecords.bandcamp.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.

a2041752445_10

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

Verb T & Illinformed – The Man With The Foggy Eyes (Review)

Illinformed, Reviews, Verb T

High Focus Records continue their busy year with a new project from veteran head Verb T and Illinformed, one of the scene’s most impressive production talents of recent years. ‘The Man With The Foggy Eyes’ takes us on a dreamy, classy journey with personality and relatable lyricism from T, and jazzy sample based production from Illinformed.

unnamed-39

‘Rolex Dreams’, featuring Leaf Dog, is an early highlight; the juxtaposition between Verb’s calm delivery and humble style and the concept is entertaining, and Leaf’s verse is passionate and effective. The smooth, jazz-club vibe provided by Illinformed on ‘Somebody Has To Pay’ is matched with a cool and collected flow from Verb T, and this is followed with the raw, uptempo ‘Fuck It Up’. Verb T’s versatility and consistency has always impressed me, and this album continues the trend.

The gritty ‘First Stone’ is another heavy track, with Verbs providing vivid imagery and detailed metaphors with a precise flow. The Hammond organ used on ‘Forgiveness’ is an ingenious addition from Illinformed, and Verb T, Smellington Piff and Moreone all match the soulful beat with their introspective lyricism. The infectious and sharp trumpet on ‘Say It Again’ is an effective production choice; Illinformed is equally as key to the cohesive and tasteful album as Verb T, who shows that his witty writing on this track is as sharp as ever.

The brief but entertaining ‘High Street’ is a nice cut to add to the tracklist, and it’s followed by ‘Pain Avenue’. The personal aspect to Verb T’s music is what is so enticing; the concepts and topics feel real and authentic. The subtle ‘Fade Away’ continues the strong end run of the album, with punchy drums and silky piano samples. ‘Trickery’, the penultimate track, features BVA; the dope brass lines and lazy drum pattern back the two High Focus MC’s as they drop their verses with convincing deliveries. This is followed by ‘I Can’t Stop’. Verbs is joined by Joker Starr, Micall Parknsun and Fliptrix on this joint, and the line-up speaks for itself.

‘The Man With The Fogy Eyes’ is an album that matches talented and intelligent writing with authentic and consistent production. Verb T and Illinformed have great chemistry, with styles that lend themselves perfectly to one another. This is another album to add to the list of quality releases from High Focus; cohesive, relatable and polished.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@RealVerbT

@IlinformedProd

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

http://www.high-focus.com

The Four Owls – Natural Order (Review)

Reviews, The Four Owls

The Four Owls are back. The High Focus UK supergroup, consisting of Fliptrix, Verb T, BVA and Leaf Dog, return after the absolutely classic ‘Nature’s Greatest Mystery’ album, released back in 2011 with an unadulteratedly raw project packed with incredible beats and superbly crafted lyricism stuffed to the brim with substance. ‘Natural Order’ has had a lot of hype, with the release of the DJ Premier produced single ‘Think Twice’, and the impact of their debut make this release all the more anticipated. High Focus haven’t disappointed us yet, and this one is no exception, to say the very least. 

The Four Owls - Natural Order - Front Cover

From the soulful samples with crunching snares backing the Owls on ‘Rice Torture’, it’s instantly clear that the golden era infused hip hop these four guys specialise in still sounds as fresh as ever. With lyrics about their hip hop sensibilities and prowess, this opener sets the tone, and shows that amongst so much disappointment in mainstream hip hop, the underground is still where it’s at.  ‘Silent Flight’, which was released with an impeccable animation video on YouTube prior to the album’s release, is still one of my favourite tracks. With the choppy vocal samples and consistently impressively delivered Owl themed lyrics this is a guaranteed anthem.

‘Think Twice’ showed that UK hip hop really is starting to get the recognition it so clearly deserves. The only track on the album not produced by Leaf Dog (did I mention it’s a DJ Premier joint!?), each of The Four Owls show why they’re so respected for their lyrics, flows, delivery and content. Verb T’s closing rhyme scheme is insane, and hopefully this Premier collab is the start of something special. The brass samples and in your face drums of ‘Defiant’ are well suited, and the muffled production on ‘The Four Elements’ both make for heavy listens; the consistency on ‘Natural Order’ is something to be congratulated.

Smellington Piff’s appearance on ‘Dawn Of A New Day’, another excellent Leaf Dog production with intelligent rhyming, is dope to see. The Four Owls have been around the blocks, and it’s always refreshing to see so much promising talent coming through the ranks. This track is a declaration for the return of real hip hop, and since the album reached the top spot in the iTunes hip hop chart, maybe it’s time you believed them. ‘Assassination’ is definitely a highlight, with Dirty Dike joining The Four Owls on a back to back series of incredible verses. Dike’s ‘dreaming of raping a boyband member in the face’ bar is enough to make you reload this countless times.

There really is so much to talk about here. The infectious organ on ‘Ain’t Like It’ and the well tackled concepts on ‘The Drama’ show the versatile skills of each member, be it lyrical or beat-making. ‘Open Book’ finds Jam Baxter making a brutal guest appearance, The haunting, soulful ‘Old Earth’ is also one of the most impressive tracks on ‘Natural Order’, and it finds the Owls demonstrating their introspective styles with flair and skill. The more relaxed side of the Owls’ music is found throughout their second album, with a good balance between that and more uptempo, aggressive tracks.

‘Natural Order’ is one of the most consistent, cohesive and raw rap albums I’ve heard for a long time. Each group member impresses, with Fliptrix’s savage flows and intelligent writing, Leaf Dog’s unique style and production talents, BVA’s charismatic delivery and old school flow and Verb T’s humble yet cutting writing all playing their part. It’s hard to pick a standout member, but Verb T’s showing on this album definitely leaves a lasting impression, but each Owl shines in their own right.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@MrFliptrix

@RealVerbT

@BVA3

@MCLeafDog

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

http://www.high-focus.com

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. 

a3877088449_10

‘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

Tony Broke – Money In The Bag (Review)

Reviews, Tony Broke

Tony Broke is just one of the many talented rappers coming out of Liverpool. It’s amazing to see just how much talent there is in the North of the UK, with cities such as Leeds, Manchester and the Merseyside all producing some incredible lyricists. Money In The Bag is the latest EP from Tony, released through Blah Records. 

Image

The album kicks off with the title track, Money In The Bag, featuring fellow Liverpudlian Bang On! and the absolute legend that is Ras Kass. It’s great to hear two MCs from England trading verses with such a respected lyricist, and all 3 rappers impress on this track. The gritty beat provides the perfect backdrop for Tony & Mr. Bang On to spit on; both have a quick paced flow, packing the bars with syllables. Bang On slips into double time effortlessly, then in the next bar returning to a regular speed, and it’s this control that makes his verse so memorable.

Fast For Cash features Black Josh, from Manchester and RLD Records’ own Smellington Piff. This ode to being poor is UK hip hop at its absolute best. Reklews’ smooth, piano laced beat allows all 3 MCs to do what they do, and the chorus is very infectious. Black Josh’s flow is so on point, every track I hear his ability to drop an incredible verse astounds me. With excellent control, timing and diction he is bound to become one of the leading members of the scene. Smellington Piff’s verse hits extremely hard as well, with incredible multi’s and quotable’s such as ‘foraging for half bitten Bourbons and blue Gorgonzola’. 68 Sag is another dope track from the EP, and any hip hop fan will love this posse cut. With King Grubb, Bill Shakes & Lee Scott all dropping very tight verses, anybody who likes Children of the Damned will bug out at this joint. Tommy Dockerz drops another Scrumpy Jack inspired verse, the vibe Tommy brings to a track is something I’m excited to hear a lot more of. Black Josh also drops his second verse of the EP, killing the beat once more, as does Bang On.

Production duties for Money In The Bag are handled by Reklews. His dark, boom bap beats suit a Blah Records release like no other, and this is no exception. Providing a fantastic batch of instrumentals for some dope lyricists to drop knowledge on, this is an EP for the real hip hop fans.

Blah Records are coming out with some great projects, with Lee Scott & Tommy Dockerz recently releasing full length projects, and this 4 track EP from Tony Broke is yet another great piece of the catalogue. Gritty and real, this is a pure hip hop offering, and I for one am excited to hear what’s coming next.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@BlahRecords

http://www.blahrecords.com