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

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@RamsonBadbonez

@HighFocusUK

http://www.facebook.com/LYTEWORK

http://www.high-focus.com

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.

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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

Ocean Wisdom – Chaos 93′ (Review)

Dirty Dike, Ocean Wisdom, Reviews

Brighton MC Ocean Wisdom first catapulted to the forefront of any hip-hop head’s mind with the release of ‘Walkin’ back in 2014. The grimey, snarling Dirty Dike production and the ferociously fast flow were an instantly winning combination, and anxiously rap fans the world over waited patiently for news of a full project. Signing with High Focus Records last year is a logical choice, and the independent powerhouse starts off 2016 with Wisdom’s debut solo record ‘Chaos 93’, entirely produced by Dirty Dike and featuring appearances from Klashnekoff, Lunar C, Foreign Beggars and more.

Ocean Wisdom - Chaos 93' - Album Cover

Opening with ‘Walkin’, if you’ve been living under a rock for the past year and a half or so, this is the perfect introduction to Ocean’s high-standard of lyricism and his undeniably incredibly flow, and he matches a decisive delivery with crystal clear diction. ‘Splittin’ The Racket’, the first official single from the album, keeps the pace at a blistering high, and Wisdom displays witty bars over a crisp, hard-hitting Dike instrumental. ‘High Street’ is an intense, rapid-fire onslaught of tongue twisting lyrics and flows; Ocean Wisdom switches it up effortlessly and without warning, demonstrating integrity, honesty and screw-face inducing skill.

Lunar C’s appearance on ‘Gone’ is a great addition (“I’m squeezing titties like I’m holding stress balls/She’s pussy popping like a blow up ex doll”); wordplay, charisma and punchlines are displayed by both MCs, and the hook is a work of genius. Klashnekoff features on the following cut ‘Devilish’, and the menacing, subtle production with deep bass and percussive flows is a superb backdrop for the two gritty vocalists. ‘Doolally’ features another legendary UK name; Foreign Beggars join Ocean on a hyped, up-tempo track. Dike’s production across ‘Chaos 93’ is versatile and consistently impressive, the thumping kicks and sparse instrumentation works brilliantly with the energetic, percussive flows from Wisdom, Vulgatron and Metropolis.

Man, ‘Oh Kiddi K’. What a tune. Remus’ opening verse is aggressive, intelligent and entirely convincing; the building anticipation for his debut LP is starting to become too much to handle. The in-your-face, pedal to the metal flows that Ocean has developed a reputation for are showcased all over ‘Chaos 93’. He slows the pace down a little on ‘Heskey’, and Dike matches the vibe with a sinister production. ‘Real Smooth’, the highly anticipated collaborations with The Four Owls, is a certified banger. Every verse is a smash; Fliptrix spits “I hit the bong today, never on a long delay/Shouting at these motherfuckers ándale, ándale” and BVA’s savage appearance is one of the standout moments on the entire LP. ‘W.A.Y.D’ again shows the diversity Ocean and Dike have mastered on the album, with a soulful instrumental and introspective lyricism.

‘Chaos 93’ definitely lives up to the hype; when ‘Walkin’ is your introduction to the industry, you’re certainly setting the bar high, but Ocean Wisdom’s ferocious pen-game, diverse flows and pure ability sounds flawless over Dirty Dike’s expertly handled production. Over an eclectic seventeen tracks, the musical ability of both rapper and producer is shown to be at the highest level, and High Focus have knocked it out of the park with this one. What a start to 2016.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@LYTEWORK

@Ocean_Wisdom

@DirtyDikeSMB

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

Enlish – Delicious Heat (Review)

Enlish, Reviews

Enlish has long been an active MC in the hotbed of talented hip hop artists that is Brighton. He’s released some great music in the past, and his face also pops up when watching some old Don’t Flop videos, and in all of these appearances it’s clear to see that Enlish is a very talented MC. Delicious Heat is the latest offering from Big Dave, and this 15 track mixtape serves as the warm up to Enlish’s upcoming full length album, entitled Slumdog Hundredaire. The beats are perfect for a hot summer, and Enlish delivers his bars confidently with a precise flow and developed rhyme schemes.

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Tracks such as Abobo Rap see Enlish drop knowledge over a slow paced beat, spitting some witty bars and punchlines that show exactly why his presence in the battle rap scene has earned him many stripes. It’s the extended rhyme schemes and patterns that really impressed when listening to this song, with various 4 syllable rhyme structures, often internal, really displaying Dave’s technical ability.

In true mixtape spirit, Delicious Heat also features a couple of dubs over some sick instrumentals. Enlish’s remix of Not Like Before by The Four Owls is a standout. ‘Realer than most/Feeble approach/Dealing some coke/Beam and a scope/Eager to boast/Fiends with the dope’ is a rhyme scheme that really got my head nodding back and forth, and this track is packed with very well written bars. Enlish’s flow is very tight and precise, and this only adds to the impact of his lyrics.

Enlish also takes us to some more wavy music, with Retired featuring some haunting soundscapes and rattling snares, as well as the classic pitched down vocal hook. It’s good to hear diversity on a UK hip hop mixtape; Big Dave can hold it down on a classic boom bap instrumental just as well as he can on some more up to date production.

Delicious Heat is a very good warm up to Slumdog Hundredaire. Enlish reminds us of his excellent writing ability, as well as his confident and cocky flow and delivery. This is yet another example of the fantastic hip hop being produced down on the south coast.

By Sam Bennett

@TheRealPP

@Enlish

http://www.enlish.bandcamp.com