Hip Hop Revue

Rapture & Verse Feb Edition: The Four Owls

Matt Oliver  returns with more frontline bulletins from the Hip Hop sphere. This month’s revue includes the most recent and upcoming singles/EPS/LPs/Mixtapes and videos from Verb T,  Your Old Droog,  Fashawn, Ecid,  Smellington Puff,  Vocab Slick,  Flip, and  F Stokes.

A chocker RnV skims through headlines that saw Drake making a mixtape statement (‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’), Kendrick Lamar dropping an equally bold declaration (‘The Blacker The Berry’), Dr Dre turning 50 (ok, sometimes we like to read the personals), 2 Chainz throwing his hat into the ring for Georgia mayor, Lil Wayne suing an under pressure Cash Money for a big chunk of change, and the murder of West Coast stronghold The Jacka. There was also Nas and Chance the Rapper attempting to boost Madonna’s street cred, and Raekwon & Ghostface going behind-the-scenes to honour their all-time great Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. Plus, all that award show stuff involving the re-crowning of Missy Elliott and Kanye West joining the Beck fan club.

Live and direct, Pete Rock pops down Proud Camden this coming Thursday, and Ty is in town on Friday for BrixtonJAMM’s latest knees-up. DJ Yoda piles high the goodness at London’s The Forum with support from The Mouse Outfit on March 14th, and fabled enigma Divine Styler will swoop into your city for a Spring tour. Further down the calendar, The Sugar Hill Gang, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5 and West Street Mob will be handing out summertime lessons across the country (including at Sheffield’s Tramlines festival), and this year’s Outlook Festival has announced a bill of rap classicists old new, with performances from Run the Jewels, Flatbush Zombies, Pete Rock, Jeru The Damaja and The Beatnuts.


‘A Special Episode Of’ Open Mike Eagle unveils a miniseries of shoulder shrugging, prey-circling lyrical dexterity that’ll also satisfy your inner rhyme geek. Micall Parknsun champions ‘Grade & Liquor’ over a real fusty banger full of second-hand sweat and blowback, and the keenly felt comeback of Cannibal Ox bears two previews of typical blockish bluster from Vast Aire and Vordul Mega – doomsday anointment ‘Iron Rose’ with DOOM, and boom-bap bad dream ‘Harlem Knights.’

Apathy justifies the funk-fed title of ‘The 45 Killer’ with a business-as-usual beatdown. Kaytranada skims the surface while Vic Mensa mines the depths, so a head-swim gets met with a slap on ‘Drive Me Crazy’, drifting through the streets. Bringing his head down from the clouds is Verb T, whose short bitter-sweetener ‘I Just Wanna Live’ is powered by a poignant twang blurring colours out of the melancholy.

Kool Keith coming off the top over L’Orange’s chop-ups turn ‘Sometimes I Feel’ into a suspenseful and lopsided drama. ‘Unity’ is the standout from Zion I’s ‘The Sun, Moon and Stars’ EP, pro-activity at its best it denotes the split of the always consistent Zumbi and Amp Live. Exotic electronica, maximal Tropicana and lyrical gloss from Cakes da Killa is a lively combination for the leftfield that balances dance music style with tight mic performance on ‘#IMF.’

Midlands funk and soul saviour Sam Redmore opens the doors to his Mardi Gras remodelling school, with Q-Tip, Jay-Z, dead prez and Missy Elliott parading carnival flavours in the midst of Bossa nova bootlegs and cheeky two-track cut-ups. For classic, consummate, commanding mic presence, look no further than Your Old Droog and his eminently rewindable ‘Kinison’ EP – another warning shot for the year ahead from Nas’ doppelrhymer.


If the name sounds cartoony, Onoe Caponoe’s rebuttal is to use superpowers schooled in the dark arts. Voices from Planet Cattele is the captain’s log of a hungry sage-like emcee, an all-seeing eye in a youthful, know-it-all head. Paired with great space beats from Chemo – mired in bogginess, embracing zero gravity, vast opuses and solemn trundles – it’s a late night essential for bloodshot ears.

The Four Owls set a high homegrown bar with 16-track magnum opus Natural Order. Verb T, Fliptrix, BVA and Leaf Dog respect neck-stiffening beats and rhymes ripped from a stuffed notepad, perfectly navigating the posse mentality with go-for-self performance. They pull off a coup with a guest production from DJ Premier, and announce that 2015’s standard has been set with an LP that stands tall from start to finish.

Self-proclaimed “archbishop meets Bart Simpson” Fashawn has been touted by Nas as a big deal after previous slow progress. His animated, rounded, rational exasperations across The Ecology, bounce off polished production making no apologies for aiming mainstream. Whether or not he could do with something grittier, it’s not doing Fashawn’s prospects any harm, with accessibility key to steering the album away from the middle of the road.

A clash of starship funk and raspy gangsterisms comes from Note; obviously a Valentine’s Day realist, given his album is called Love & Indifference, it is indeed reasonably noteworthy. More about hearts and flowers was Pharoahe Monch’s timely 14th Feb collection Lost in Translation, a round-up picking out the sweet centres of his back catalogue.

B Dolan’s third House of Bees sits on the fringes but never on the fence, putting up pointed points of view while the record continually flips through styles to throw your preconceptions of him. Scroobius Pip and Sage Francis show up as likeminded support. Delegates of Culture spring clean the vaults for you to discover the Inaccessible. The crew headed by Skuff and Inja bring a bunch of B-sides, bootlegs and scraps blinking into the light after being kept under wraps for 15 or so years. A doughty UK bounty.

European superpowers Fulgeance (of France) and DJ Scientist (of Germany) go safecracking on The Soviet Tape. Sent from Russia with love, the, mainly instrumental alliance homes in on scuzziness and retro recognition, and is a top ranking dossier of thick jazz and funk breaks, unearthed samples, cold fronts and delighted Balkan jigs. On a crunk, turned-down-for-what flipside, club trasher Bionik gargles on glo-stick juice to heighten Sonik Boom, where waves of rash synths and drum machines turn tendons and brains to spaghetti. Entertaining, confrontational and bizarre rides from out wide dominate Ecid’s Pheromone Heavy: no loverman strut, these are super fast downloads from the brain and fierce DIY therapy and freedom to an 8-bit backdrop out of Minneapolis.

The interminable album formula of one producer plus umpteen invited rhymers is the one for Miami’s DJ EFN and his ravenous appetite seeking out past and present (Gunplay, Milk Dee, Killer Mike, King Tee) for the thorough Another Time. The tunes are stocky and everyone makes themselves at home, so it’s all good. The nonchalance of Kenn Starr is the biggest draw for Square One. Unassuming but always on-target, it’s a soul-soaked album set to a low heat but still able to blister ear lobes. Your recommended daily allowance of Soul Veggies comes from Mega Ran & Storyville, golden aged, meat-and-potatoes tag teamers not afraid to mix it up (‘Rappin’ About Rappin’’ zings as a trap parody/evaluation). They don’t overcook their ideas, and you couldn’t ask for a crisper set of Philly-bred greens.

Mixtapes & VT

With feet in both camps, DJ Nu-Mark takes his soldering iron to Jurassic 5 and The Pharcyde and comes up with super fresh best of both worlds Craft Services, getting to the bottom of each crew’s crates. Lil Wayne’s Sorry for the Wait 2 is a predictably rambling pre-album stopgap, getting things off his chest and chasing his own tail with some choice one-liners buried within a bunch of borrowed beats. DJ MK and DJ IQ veer between bass-heavy hip-hop and grime so skillfully, they’re comfortable naming their joint venture The Mix Tape That Doesn’t Have A Name Yet.

Closing visuals this month from Smellington Puff, Vocab Slick, Flip, and F Stokes.

Words: Matt Oliver


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