Anyone that knows me may have noticed that I’m not the best at mornings, so as soon as I saw the title of UK vet Verb T’s latest album on High Focus Records I was already pretty much sold. Do you care about my sleeping patterns? Probably (/hopefully) not, but seeing as Verbs is one of those few UK MCs where the phrase ‘needs no introduction’ truly fits, I figured I’d tell you something semi related instead. Anyone who doesn’t know about this MC come producer, climb out from that crevice you’ve been jamming in and scroll down to the fourth question of the interview for a good introduction into his career and style.
With that said, it’s with a lot of pleasure that I introduce you to the most recent addition to a weighty discography, a 14 track album entitled The Morning Process. As with all High Focus releases, it’s a more finely tuned album that seems to have found a real sense of direction and benefits from an incredible variety of beats from Leaf Dog, JJ Malone, Pete Cannon, Chemo and of course Verb T himself.
Verb T’s sound has been very well polished for a while now, having already used Chemo for mastering/recording for example, so the step up in quality may not be as great as with some of the other artists on the HF roster. However, careful direction, good feature selections and an increased element of confidence and honesty to his lyricism makes this his technically best solo release yet in my eyes. For the cherry on the cake, it’s a more heavily condensed 14 tracks then previous albums where the, albeit funny, time devoted to aliases such as Dick Trusay left me wanting a bit more straight bars, something he really delivers this time around.
“We ’bout to go back, way back in the day so put your arms up now, hands on display”
Two Leaf Dog beats with a heavy element of boom bap start things off and, weighing in at a shade under two minutes each, it gives the album a fast paced feel to start that well suits the idea of waking up and snaps you into the album. This leads perfectly onto the one Chemo beat featured, Listen to Me, which takes the old school vibe further with pure warefare in the sound of metallic drums accompanied by perhaps the most well known, and equally revered, scratch sample in the archives over which T takes it back with a heavily hook led tune giving a further insight into his past.
The fourth track, On the Edge Part I, is where I noticed a real change in the vibe of the album, moving to beats that are, for want of a better word, more futuristic and often laid back. This is one of my personal favourites, it’s hook combining with a dubby bass line and perfect pianos to devastating effect and an effortless yet technical flow in the verses. However, it’s not all the same from here on in and this album is one characterized by variation, with the pad heavy Dilla esque Sing the Blues sitting effortlessly next to sharp drums of the laid back Snake Plissken for example. Skriblah and Cappo feature here for an incredible collaboration that sees two underrated MCs command a track, bringing their own style to it while also fitting in perfectly with Verbs and the style of the album in general.
“I wonder if they caught the name. Only left my initials like arcade hall of fame. Makes sense I live life like it’s all a gain, as pertains to my day to day.”
With only four tracks featuring other MCs, this is well and truly Thomas Conning’s album, something that allows you to get a really deep insight into his mindset. However, every MC involved does well to not break up this flow, instead fitting into his style well and adding to it rather than imposing. BVA delves deep on a similairly reflective tip on Sittin’ Here where one of Leaf’s Dogs more mellow beats makes for a night time viber while Kosyne helps polish off an incredible final track Red Ink, a catchy love anthem that ends things on a hopeful and uplifting note. It’s nice to see the love being spread outside of the High Focus camp for the Skriblah/Cappo/Kosyne features, but also equally appealing to see another Nottingham MC Karizma being joined by Fliptrix and Baxter for On the Edge Part II. The more abstract imagery on this track stands almost alone on an album largely defined by straight up grown man talk, but provides an element of variety and shows Verb’s versatility and ability to hold it down in a range of styles.
“Brains get invaded, grey matter taken as hostage. Kamikaze, I’m in the cockpit”
A satisfying album that keeps on giving and leaves you feeling like you’ve really got your money’s worth, The Morning Process is a release that adds further development to the style and discography of an artist who’s already put in a lot of work over the last decade. One of the few MCs to really thrive in and transcend both the previous boom in UK Hip Hop, during the lowlife era, and also the current boom we’re enjoying, Verb T seems to have this uncanny knack of staying relevant. While he sticks with a very defined and instantly recognizable style, not just in his vocal tones but also the type of hooks he records and the beats he uses, subtle changes and straight up quality keep it interesting and ensure this is more than just another album to add to the discography, but a progression.
Hear what the man himself has to say about it all in our exclusive interview below and hop on over to the High Focus Website to pick up the album.
Easy Verbs, cheers for coming through firstly! What’s been taking up your time recently?
Lots of live shows, lots of looking after my kids, lots of eating Chinese food, lots of trying to get all the non musical stuff sorted for my new album!
Let’s start with desert island disks, what three albums would you take if you were banished to an island for all eternity and why?
Labcabincalifornia by the Pharcyde firstly. It’s just a perfect hip hop album for me and I could imagine chilling on an island listening to it, there are a load of classic hip hop albums but that one I can listen all the way through every time.
I’m Still in Love With You by Al green, I’m Still In Love…, Love and Happiness, Simply Beautiful – all amazing, Al Green is my favourite singer.
Lastly Electric Lady Land by Jimi Hendrix. That album is just zoned out, perfect for some escapism should you ever get banished to an island. That said 3 isn’t enough I’d need more…
Good choices! So how about some guilty pleasure tunes or artists you just cant help loving?
That sounds like people I like but don’t like to admit I like, haha, I mean some of Drakes stuff is real poppy and a bit cheesy but he can rap and sometimes picks interesting production so I listen to his stuff sometimes, then slap myself haha! Nah he’s ok.
The XX are kind of a teen band I feel too old to listen to but they’re stuff is interesting. To be honest I will give most stuff time of day, I like to discover different styles of music
For those not as familiar with your material, give us three of your tunes that you feel have been key moments or highlights in your career…
I guess Showbitchness, my first tune on Lowlife, the tune that first got me known on a semi wide scale and a personal favourite out of the tunes I’ve made. Sound So Cool from my lowlife EP kinda holds the blue print to my style from a technical point of view.
Then my whole new album, sorry kinda breaking the rules here but I can’t really pick apart my new album it’s all very important, maybe the track ‘Don’t Damage Yourself’ I was stuck in hospital over Christmas 2011 and I wrote that partly from my point of view, then while in there I watched ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ and wrote the song partly from the point of view of the main character in that film when they start experimenting on him, just to make it more extreme.
I’d also have to throw in my verse from the four owls tune ‘Not Like Before’ that gives you a proper overview of who I am and what I’m about.., plus that tune has done pretty well I’d say.
No doubt, so moving onto your creative process, where do you tend to write bars and what are essential items for a session?
I usually write bars at home at the table or on my bed, mad innit. I like writing in the studio sometimes but I prefer to go to the studio prepared so I can record a load of stuff in a session. My old essential items were weed, cigarettes, food, dvds, cds, but these days my essentials would be snacks and a bottle of water…. and a pen and rhyme book obviously. Also I need to have a big selection of beats, I can’t just listen to one beat for hours, a lot of the verses I’ve written have been written to 3 or 4 beats.
What would you say to critics who write off your style as too monotonous?
Piss off you fucking critical wanker haha, nah it’s all good, I used to over perform in the studio and it was unnatural and wacky, it was ok for certain tunes but I felt I wasn’t using my vocal tone properly. I started to rap in a more relaxed way and it was me, it wasn’t wacky voice man anymore. There have been critics but also people have been influenced by my style, I know this because they have told me and I have heard them, thanks guys!
Me included. You started battling on Don’t Flop a little while ago. Have you always battled or is it completely new to you? What made you wanna get into it?
I battled with my mates back in the day, never really anything serious. I watched some of the old American battles then, after me and Fliptrix played a DF event in Brighton, I started to become a fan of it and wanted to give it a go. I always tell people it’s like a sport to me; I like football, I love basketball but this is the most exciting sport, I don’t do it for any other reason anymore other than I enjoy it.
You’ve been in the game for a long time now, tell us your greatest story or favourite moment from the hip hop road…
This is a typical mind goes blank and I tell a tame tale about how I tripped over while getting on stage once or some other lame story of lame shit going on. I mean with the live thing you just have to be there to experience it, you go from chilling in your own city to playing (hopefully) crazy hype sets in other places, then you get caught up in the whole thing, drinking, smoking or whatever you do, it all becomes a blur.
I used to remember individual shows or what happened when, now it’s just all one huge show to me. Highlights would include the festivals though, Hip Hop Kemp, Outlook, and as I write this Boom Bap just happened, It’s like being in a whole other realm doing festivals, as if you’ve been taken away and placed on some party island.
And of course it’s the people you meet who make it what is too, you meet freaks, weirdos, mentals as well as some genuinely really cool people. Then I have a whole other life that I love with my family, going to the park with my kids and all that stuff, it’s very removed from my music life, it’s a weird balancing act sometimes.
Your latest album’s dropping soon on High Focus, why ‘The Morning Process’? Is there a concept holding it all together?
Yes I’d say so; it’s about waking up, realisation, understanding, acceptance. It’s like me baring my soul and asking for forgiveness, then offering my insight, then saying some funny shit, then getting all emotional again. It’s a good highlight reel of 2-3 years inside my brain.
The title comes from me being tired all the time and trying to stay awake both literally and metaphorically. But I also made it for the fans you know, I like my own music but I make it for more than just me to listen too, so I’ve tried to give my best advice and be at my most interesting so as to give people something cool to listen to, and not sound like a complete dick shine
What’s the worst thing about mornings? I always seem to manage to put my belt on inside out….
If it’s cold out of bed and warm in the bed, simple, I don’t wanna get out, and doing it makes me really angry, and cold obviously. I tend to leave my zipper down on my trousers a lot when I get dressed tired, it’s purely an accident though, not a cry for attention.
How would you describe the vibe of the album and how do you feel it’s progressed from your previous releases?
It’s me at my lyrical best by far, no question. It’s the sum of all of my experience in this field of music. It’s me talking from the heart in a way I haven’t really done before. I took a few steps back to what I feel like I’ve done well in the past then I have evolved ideas I’ve wanted to use for a while and executed them properly.
I really have to give it up for the producers though, I made a few beats I was happy with, JJ Malone got me started with some of his smooth ass production, then I got a real banger from chemo who is also an absolute king for recording and mixing the whole thing, I don’t really know if I could record an album with anyone else.
Pete Cannon hooked up a banging anti social anthem for me. And then of course I gotta mention Leaf Dog who gave me some real classics to write to, which also provided me the inspiration to get the project done and out
Will we see the return of the likes of Dick Trusay?
No disrespect but that is disrespectful to mention a person I have 0 respect for in my interview. Respect this, he’s a fucking prick, if I see him with all due respect I will push him into a brambly hedge and run away
Haha fair enough, consider that a warning Trusay. What MC collabs are on it and how did you pick them?
I was ultra aware of what I needed where. On the track Snake Plissken I picked Cappo and Skriblah because they both (a) have dope and original voices (b) are very good at painting pictures with words and (c) they both picked the same beat when I sent them stuff. I am a big fan of both of them so to have them on the same track with me, and also the fact I produced the song was awesome.
I got BVA on a song because he is one of the best rappers going, he has done loads of stuff with Leaf Dog and obviously he is part of the Four Owls crew, but I want people to look out for his solo stuff, his solo album next year is going to be crazy. It was nice to get a feature verse from him, he really took the track from being decent to being perfect.
I got a track on there with Fliptrix, Jam Baxter and Karizma, I made the beat and it was cool because we were all in the studio, and we went in and laid the verses in the same order as they are on the final version, so it kinda has that raw live performance feel to it. I picked those guys because they all have amazing flows but with quite different lyrical outlooks so it really made the song interesting.
Also I have Kosyne on my album, he is just an all round good guy, and very talented but also very humble, I felt I had the perfect beat for him so it was real nice to get him on there. There were people I wanted to get on there and couldn’t because I needed to be brutal with the final track list to keep the flow of the album
As with a lot of High Focus releases, we get the pleasure of a wax run. Although Fliptrix seems to be making it work financially, it’s no doubt a medium in decline. What role do you see vinyl playing in hip hop five years from now and how do you think the scene would change if vinyl was no longer pressed?
I don’t really know, but I love having a big sleeve with my album cover on it. I think vinyl sounds better generally and it makes it more collectable. I feel vinyl makes music feel a bit less disposable, it’s easy to download something and keep your I tunes on shuffle and you just get a blast of it every now and again. Where as with CD and Vinyl it’s something you can put on and listen through, it’s cool with the HF vinyl cos you get a drop card so you can have the digital copy for your mp3 player as well but you get the nice sleeve to stick on your wall and show your mates and add to your collection of stuff that is taking up loads of room in your house… wait….. maybe be I should shut up. I love vinyl.
What else is planned after the album?
A long hot bath and some time to reflect on life and all that shit. Plenty of gigs hopefully, and a few new projects in the works, nothing in an advanced state yet but stuff is gonna happen you just wait.
I spoke to Kashmere a while back and he mentioned that a second Invisible Inc album, alongside him and Ghost, is something he’d consider if heads made the noise for it. As much as I hate to play the pot stirring middleman, it’s for a good cause haha. Is that something you’d ever consider?
I would 100% do that but it’s hard. Ghost lives in Australia, and part of that whole dynamic came from us all chilling together, doing shows and just hanging out at Ghosts house. I have done some new music with ghost and will do some with Kashmere too, those will always be my good friends but making an album is a different thing, I dunno if I could do it sending files back and forth. Never say never though, it would be cool as really cool stuff to do another invisible project.
What other releases are you looking forward too?
Kashmere’s new incarnation Strange Universe which will appear in the future courtesy of Eglo Records. Leaf and BVA have a project produced by Illinformed called ‘Brothers Of the Stone’, I’m looking forward to M9’s new album and I haven’t got Mystro’s new one but it’s out now and I need to get that. I’m sure there is a lot I’m forgetting, and I’m also looking forward to the next few non hip hop albums I discover through Youtube surfing and internet research too
Cheers Verbs! Any last words?
Dreams can come true, visualise, believe and go for it. Embrace love, don’t let hate take over your being even for a second. Show respect to you’re fellow people and try to understand those who are different from you. Try not to judge too much, be open to change, adapt, and all that ol’ good shit.
Check my album if you feel like it too, I made it for people not just myself. Oh yeah and rappers don’t get caught up trying to be the best, if you compete you will become like those you are competing against and unlike yourself. Don’t get caught up in what other people are doing, do what you do to the best of your ability and let the people hear you being you. Instead of being opposed lets work together and build. Mmmmmmmmm PREACHY!