We’ve been here almost two weeks now and I hope we see something soon…There’s something there, what is it? …….. It’s an OWL.
Did you know an owl can open and close it’s ears? In today’s world full of sub par music bombarding you wherever you look like a Coca Cola advertising campaign on steroids, that sounds like a useful trait. But open them up for a bit, there’s news worth hearing.
It all started with four owls doing their separate things across the map, from the urban based ‘Big Owl’ of Brixton, jamming in the rafters of speakers corner, to a ‘Deformed Wing’ specimen in the woods of Glastonbury. Slowly, they began to hear each others calls and abandoned their perches to form one of the greatest UK Hip Hop supergroups of our time.
Be original. Don’t copy this material, use your own voice and make suuuure its lyrical.
Word has it they can hear a beat from sixty miles away, use their rotating heads to perform to 360degree crowds and are fond of turning their faces upside down when the bass drops. But then again, my source may have been confusing these four mcs with real owls, as in the actual animals. See, The Four Owls isn’t a low budget film about a crafty escape from an animal sanctuary, but the pseudonym for Fliptrix (Big Owl), Verb T (Bird T), Leaf Dog (Deformed Wing) and BVA (Rusty Take Off) and their upcoming album Nature’s Greatest Mystery (release date: 7th December).
As part of the (now a whole lot more than) up and coming label, High Focus, they’ve been taking the internet by storm ever since they leaked a video for their first single Lights Off. As soon as the camera panned across those four hooded figures in strange owl masks, you knew this was gonna be something interesting, and then Fliptrix kicked in with the a verse to bring the forests down (I swear he never breaths?) and the UK Hip Hop scene was captivated.
When I feel like the fight’s lost, that’s the day I turn my lights off.
The 14 track album dropped from a withered claw onto my doorstep around a week ago and I’ve been pissing off my house mates with it on repeat ever since. If you thought this was just another of those hip hop crews with a few key mc’s supporting their weaker mates on tracks, you’d be very wrong. These are all heads that are not only skilled, but have, and still are, putting their graft into the scene in a massive way. And what’s more, it’s a diverse lineup. High Focus founder Fliptrix, with two albums under his belt, brings his South London twang and hard hitting delivery. Leaf Dog, fresh off the back of his debut solo album From a Scarecrow’s Perspective, completely switches that up with a South West accent (which I’d rate as the most original in the scene right now) and brings absolutely banging hooks and hard verses. BVA, much underrated mic assassin of the Three Amigos crew who’ve got a track list as long as your tail feather, really comes hard, here’s hoping to seeing that name on the tips of a lot more tongues after this album. Finally, Verb T comes with dreamy wisdom that nicely balances out the more aggressive styles of the other three.
Leaf Dog himself produced every single track on the album (mastered by Shitty Claw incidentally) and from the intro skit Taking Flight (which you read the first words from at the top of this page), to the outro, Send Me Away, he really shows the quality of his production in every element from sample digging to hard beats and fresh melodies. Although he brings a heavy, boom bap sound to the whole affair, you’d be mistaken to think they’re lacking in progression, stuck in the nineties in a way I feel many beats are. Instead, he adds some really original elements such as the flute melody on Three Hits to the Dome, a lazy summers day anthem, and switches it up with smoother beats such as on The Original which really suits Verb T’s lazy, floaty style.
As if four of the UK’s finest wasn’t enough, High Focus label mates Dirty Dike and Jam Baxter also make it onto the album. Dike expertly delivers the fourth verse on Much Too Much, a dark, nightmarish track that perfectly suits his quackpigery. Fliptrix sums it up nicely as ‘Vernacular Crack’. Baxter joins in on the deep, thought provoking Balance of Life track that’s one of my favourite tunes on the album. Q-Unique, of the defining 90s indie-rap group The Arsonists and since with multiple solo albums, also features heavily on Champions, a classic heads bop, swaggering tune with each mc inflating their chest.
The Sun is shining, New York city…….Yeer it’s raining in England
High Focus talk of this as their most ambitious release so far, and for me, it’s delivered. It’s got variety, not just in the vibes between tunes, but also the fact that all four rappers feature in every single track gives it a different feel to a lot of other crew albums. Every verse switches style and rapper, but they all blend together with a constant flow which keeps it sounding both fresh and cohesive.
What’s more, I really like the way High Focus are doing things in terms of production quality. The CDs nicely designed with some good little details and a sick print on the disk itself, but what’s more, they show they mean business with a limited 9 track vinyl ep, including a download card for the full album, all the instrumentals and an accapella. Why all vinyl lps don’t include some sort of download hook up remains a mystery.
Heavy production, seven big mcs and you actually get something that looks worth buying for your money. As you can tell, I rate it. Go cop it over at the High Focus store and support real hip hop!