A true personification of UK Hip Hop, BVA’s lyrical tongue, loose in it’s non conformity and willingness to breach any topic but tight to the beat, has seen him drop killer albums left right and center over the past few years as part of some of the UK’s top crews. Originally starting his all out assault on the scene alongside partner in rhyme Leaf Dog and producer Naive who together made the Dented Records signed Three Amigos, he truly earned his UK fame when he teamed up with the High Focus team, forming one part of perhaps the greatest crew to come out of the country in recent years, The Four Owls, before going on to release an album alongside Leaf Dog and beatmaker Illinformed under the name Brothers of the Stone. Despite having honed his craft with solo tracks across those projects, his lack of a solo album is something that was only attended to last friday (14/02/14) when his debut LP Be Very Aware dropped, once again through the mighty High Focus Records. Seventeen tracks in weight, it’s an album that, while a long time coming, has proved to be worth every second as he represents his brutally honest, straight up non pretentious style alongside a choice selection of the UK’s current greats and a number of the country’s most promising up and comers over beats by Leaf Dog, Amdek and Illinformed. Hear what we had to say about it below, then see what BVA has to say for himself in our exclusive interview straight after.
Laced with humour and a casual attitude throughout, the opening and closing skit tell the story of BVA’s animal kin, the Beaver. However, the warning of the forthcoming Winter and it’s grueling effect on the animal hints at the other side of the album, where he talks openly of the daily grind, growing up and generally trying to get by in this system with an outcast mindset, something the opening track Rain or Shine attests to. Perfectly introducing the feel of the album, his tale of staying true to self and keeping your head high through the monotony and graft of the world bumps over Leaf Dog’s up beat horns and bouncing vocal samples to set the tone for a generally lively album where vocals punch over bouncing beats.
Tracks like Hype Man and Frontin’ juxtapose BVA’s honest, ‘give a shit?’ personality with the more fake personalities he’s attacking, both in the Hip Hop scene and the wider world, getting much of the outward facing negativity out of the way early on before his more positive expression of self and his love for Hip Hop comes out on the vibant pads of This Love is Love as he talks of the music and culture that keeps him positive. One of my personal favourite tracks, Where’s The Mic At? immediately follows, displaying how BVA and his long time collaborator Leaf Dog become demons to the beat when it’s cranked up, demolishing any mic in their path and showing up lyricists, but simply through passion, skill and desire rather than a battle attitude. Leaf Dog’s gravelly hook “If you’re showin’ us love, we show it right back. Only really concerned with where the mic’s at” polishes off the track with a vocal that’s like crack to your ears, raw punctuation over his own beat’s thumping snare and bass twangs as him and BVA go back to back.
A hefty and varied feature list, Fliptrix delivers a vividly descriptive verse, flowing short list-like sentences in a really fresh style over the jittering break of Mad World, before Cracker Jon’s gutteral street slur sidles in with a sound I can’t get enough of, Sammy B Side finishing off the track in fine style with steel finger chops, as he also does on the final track Spit the Soulder. A massive contrast, the mellow crackles of Illinformed’s piano and sax led beat Gifted provides a laid back tapestry for Verb T’s contribution on another one of my percy’s, but not before his Dick Truesay alter ego provides a short interlude almost mid way through the release as he introduces the track. Dirty Dike and Kashmere drop in over the hard, Mob Deep esque beat of Weapon of Choice, Kashmere in particular providing an element of variety among the predominantly High Focus/RLD features, while Smellington Piff takes center stage to great effect on Let Me Relax in My Cave and Leaf Dog once again grabs the mic over the spacey, oriental Crazy Trips. My favourite feature however, sees blues vocalist Rag N Bone Man contribute an addictive hook on That Old Bitch as the pair speak of banishing jealousy and negative attitudes. Illinformed’s eerie plucked strings and shuffling break are an ideal compliment to the big soul man’s booming vocals and BVA’s deepest, most soul searching vocals.
Having started in the real world with analysis’ of BVA’s surroundings, attitude and influences, the album seems to steadily progress deeper down the rabbit hole as the world outside forces the Beaver into hibernation, eventually leading him to the psychedelic latter section. However, that’s not before the funky pianos of Be Gone Bitches let him twist swaggering, skipping flows as he kicks weak MCs out of the cypher on a track I’m really feeling. Transforming through Leaf Dog’s search for mushrooms into the oriental strings and trippy water drops of Crazy Trips, Amdek’s sole beat, the two MC’s pen vivid, at times hilarious descriptions of trips. Showcasing the journeying nature of the album that’s constantly present yet is casual enough to never turn it into a full concept album, Insomnileptic continues on a similair, but darker vibe as the trip gets more gloomy, while Am I Going Crazy reflects on the after effects of the last two tracks and the substances they involved.
An expectedly dope solo album, BVA’s debut lives up to the hype he’s created with his crew involvement and punctuates how he’s never once been carried. Displaying solid thought and craft into the actual album format while never attempting to be too conceptual, something I personally don’t think would suit BVA’s up front style, he instead sticks to what he does best with a true Hip Hop album that does exactly what it says on the tin; bangs hard throughout. Effortlessly relatable, it speaks of a devoted head trying to get by in a world led by salary’s and preconceptions. For me, it’s also a massive grower, consistently listenable through any mood or situation in a way that the more heavily conceptual High Focus albums, as incredible as they are, sometimes aren’t. Head over to the High Focus website to pick it up, and read us picking his brains about it all below.
Waddup Beevee, how do we find you today?
Very good, its 7.30 am, I just smoked a blunt and I’m going to Denmark in a few hours with The Owls and DJ Fingerfood. And the albums out tomorrow so I really couldn’t be better right now I don’t think!
Good to hear? So what’s inspiring your rhymepad recently?
Jack Jetson (RLD Records). Hearing his shit just makes me wanna write, check for his album coming soon. I’ve also been listening to a lot of old Boot Camp and Sean P stuff recently, that’s working too….. “Slip ex to your ex now your exxed by sean price, precise vocalist”
No doubt. You’ve come through the Glastonbury scene, a place that’s only recently become known for it’s Hip Hop. What was it like growing up round there as a Hip Hop head?
Well, I’ve always been jammin with people that liked Hip Hop, and there was other kids around us getting into it and shit too. We all used to skateboard, smoke weed and listen to tunes, and of course get completely fucked up every weekend. Glastonbury provided us with boredom, you can do what you want with that and I think we came from a generation of particularly efficient wastemen, so I reckon the locals are quite proud of us just for actually doing something with our lives.
Do you think the place has an influence on your sound, beyond accent?
For sure! I think having the festival there and going to it from a young age gives you an open mindedness towards music. And the spiritual, laid back side of the town definitely gives you an open mindedness towards the world and people. I think its all coming through in the sound.
You’re known for your freestyles, can you think of any particularly funny or off the wall bars that have come out in the cypher recently?
Hahahaha, I can’t remember the recent ones to be honest. I think one of the best things I’ve ever said in a freestyle personally was “down at the bottom of the garden, amongst the birds n the bees, live the kids with no peas, its the leaf and the beev“. That was just jammin’ in the house with Leaf and Eric the Red I think, but I still remember it now somehow, it definately made them laugh anyway.
Haha! So moving onto the writtens, you’re just about to release an album on High Focus, titled ‘Be Very Aware’. Is that what BVA stands for? If not, what is the meaning behind the name? What other phrases can it expand into?
Well its always stood for Beaver, that’s been my nickname since I was about thirteen or something, maybe younger. Then when you used to have to write your name in three letters for the high score board on the computer…. BVA was born. I’m sure I wrote it on a few walls too before I realised you should probably write something else if you wanna be a rapper and not bait yourself out massively. When I started rapping one of my first bars was “My name is BVA, stands for be very afraid“, so that’s always been one of them. Be Very Aware is the name for the album though and is obviously a flip of the name to.
Despite having been around on the scene for a while, this is your first solo album. You were always recording as part of crews The Three Amigos or The Four Owls before, do you think that crew dynamic was important to your development as an MC?
If you go back to mine and Leafs first release in 2005 (LBNF – 3 amigos), we both had solo songs on the album and have always both had solo songs on all our projects (apart from with The Four Owls), so writing songs by myself has always been on the agenda and is something I’ve been doing since I started. The crew dynamic is essential on stage though for sure, I like to have at least one person on stage with me when performing. I mean, listen to MOP on alot of tracks and live performances; they make that shit so hype it sounds like there could be ten people there, you really dont get that effect on your own. So yeah, the crew dynamic is definately important to me as a listener and an artist.
As part of The Four Owls you’re known as Rusty Take Off, how did that come to be?
By being a joker. Verbs was standardly Bird T, Fliptrix was Big Owl and then I came up with the names Deformed Wing, Rusty Take Off and Shitty Claw (Chemo) and we just took them and ran with them. I was definitely thinking that Rusty Take Off represented my rusty taking off (slow movements) into the world of solo EPs and LP’s. And it just put a funny image in my head of an owl running along having trouble taking off tripping over its wings an shit haha.
So why go solo now? How did the idea of the album become a thing and what made you realize now was the time to do it?
I dropped a solo EP in Feb 2011, mainly just because I didnt want to use any of the songs I’d recorded on an album. I was only happy with maybe only one or two, like Look In the Mirror‘. Then Leaf gave me the idea to add the few songs I had to some old ones that I wasn’t so happy with to drop the EP there and then and start fresh for the album. It was slightly daunting at the time starting from scratch for the album, but was definately a good idea looking back now.
Like i said before we’ve always been making solo songs, the solo LP was always coming, but dropping the EP and making The Owls was definitely when i realised the time is now.
Yer, you got a lot of hype of late! How did you find the process of making a solo album then? Did it bring new challenges you hadn’t faced before?
It was definitely different to making a project with someone else or other people for sure. I just worked on getting a big chunk of solo songs together then started getting features on some tracks when i had about 7/8 solo’s that I was happy with. The challenge I’d say is getting feature verses. I picked all the feature artists specifically for that track and topic because i thought they’d go well on them, but obviously a few of the features that I tried to get never came through for whatever reason. I didn’t sit around waiting basically, I either got someone else that suited the track or just wrote a second verse. I think in the end the features all give it a home grown vibe and bring that full UK spectrum of talent. I’d say it’s harder deciding its done and being happy with it on your own though, but its all part of the process.
Am I right in thinking there’s adlibs from other MCs throughout the album as well, I keep hearing the odd ‘yo’ that doesn’t sound like you. If so, why is that?
Hahahaha, nah man if its just me on the track its just me saying ‘Yo’. I tend to fuck about a lot on the adlibs doing stupid voices and shit and then most of it gets deleted before anyone hears it, but a few of them must have leaked through.
Haha fair enough, you sound heavily like Leaf Dog on some of those ad libs, my bad! How would you personally describe the sound or concept of the album, what feelings would you like people to have as they listen through?
I would like them to be feeling aware and thoughtful, then around the second half to be unaware and lose it slightly, then come back to being aware and thoughtful at the end. That’s the general concept and I’ve got some funny beaver nature narratives rolling through it to take away from the serious side of it all.
At 17 tracks it’s a mammoth release, was that something you were aiming for or did the track list just snowball?
I was definitely always working towards having 15-18 tracks, so when I had about 21 tracks that I was happy with I just narrowed them down to what it is now – 16 tracks and an exclusive b side for the single.
So moving on from here, what else is in the works for BVA?
Brothers of the Stone and The Four Owls albums are both on the cards right now, 2 works in progress.
Me and Leaf Dog also have our own label RLD records which we are bringing two guys out on this year very soon. The projects are Jack Jetson’s The Adventures of Jonny Strange and Smellington Piff’s Notice of Eviction‘. They’re both on full leaf dog productions and are both gonna fuck shit up intensely!
Sounds ill! No doubt there’ll be a ton of heads out there pleased to hear about the Brothers and Four Owls sequels as well. Lastly, can you give us three tunes, outside of your own crew, that you think our readers should be listening to…
Any tune from MFTC5, any tune from the split prophets and any tune from Lee Scott/Children of the Damned.
Cheers! Anything else you’d like on record?
Big up all the single mothers/fathers doing their thing and everyone that’s trying to do something positive with their time. Peace!