Swaying left to right among an enraptured crowd at last weekends Boom Bap Festival (review incoming), it became crystal clear why Rag N Bone Man has made such a massive impact of late, both on Uk Hip Hop and the wider musical landscape around it. Rugged vocals perfectly delivered, his bittersweet lyricism is juxtaposed by an elated stage presence, both grateful and almost disbelieving of the crowds response to his latest release to drop through High Focus Records; the three track Put That Soul on Me. Entirely produced by Dirty Dike, it’s weighty Hip Hop beats show Rag N Bone Man representing for his roots despite much wider demand, his recent Wolves EP on Best Laid Plans Records (listen here) showcasing the more commercial sound his vocals can twist to for example. Title track Put That Soul on Me sums that up perfectly, an ode to rustic simplicity and music that’s effortlessly listenable without being overproduced floating over Dike’s lazy flutes and crunching break. Starting things off just how we like it, it’s a testament for his love of the craft and seemingly down to earth nature that he’s even still making this type of music but for the listener it could have hardly worked out better.
More experimental by nature, In the Sky seemed to bounce back off a sea of misty eyes and distant smiles at Boom Bap, it’s deep bass and stripped back nature undoubtedly thriving on system. However, that’s not to take away from it’s power at home either. Led purely by it’s blanketing bass line and languid drum break, Rag N Bone Man’s intertwined harmonies and tales of floating stupor are enough on their own to create an incredible atmosphere. Punctuated between verses by a single saxophone melody, Dirty Dike’s quickly parting with his reputation as a pure MC amid production for the likes of Edward Scissortongue and Benaddict and the simple elegance and ingenuity of this beat definitely furthers that case.
Lastly, My Business takes things back to the more airy sound the release started with, playful synths meeting a thoughtful piano melody among clapping snares. Incorporating the only vocal feature, Dike’s SMB/Contact Play compadre Ronnie Bosh delivers a punching verse that takes you by surprise as his surefooted flow takes the mic from Rag N Bone Man’s more peaceful chorus. Switching styles for the final repeat of his hook, Rag N Bone Man ensures the track is well and truly his, showing off his vocal range with a high pitched tone pushed almost to breaking point, but Bosh’s contribution is nevertheless a nice touch and he takes on a difficult mantle in fine style.
A Uk album barely feels complete without a Rag N Bone Man hook of late and it’s easy to see why. A tone far beyond his years and, in many ways, past his time, his sound takes you back to the days of Blues and yet it’s nice to see him modernising his message and lyricism of late in order to make the sound his. A relaxed, carefree and confident attitude permeates throughout and he certainly has the vocal skills to pull that lot off. What’s more, Dirty Dike’s production suits him to a tee, it’s sample nature and equally throwback drums still not afraid to experiment and bring something new to the table. Where ever Rag N Bone Man goes with his career now, and you get the sense there are many doors opening, his voice box will remain one of the Uk Hip Hop scenes finest exports of recent years. Preorder the vinyl direct from High Focus here.