As far as streaks in UK Hip Hop go, High Focus Records' current run of releases will take some beating. The label’s current monopoly over the underground scene is evidenced in the commercial success of poster boy, Ocean Wisdom. And, with the critical acclaim which greeted Fliptrix and Coops’s latest releases and now with Dabbla’s third album in as many years under the label, the train shows no sign of slowing down.
While Dabbla’s increasing commercial success is a more recent revelation, the former jungle MC has been homing his craft for well over a decade. As such, he could now accurately be described as a veteran in a scene where the artistic life span of so many is all too fleeting. This longevity owes itself to Dabbla’s approach to making music which is uncompromising, blasé and above all, fun. This approach unsurprisingly carries through to his latest album Death Moves. In fact, this loyalty to a certain tried and tested style is a theme that runs throughout the album itself. ‘Devil you know’ and ‘Same Old Me’ being the best example of Dabbla referencing this penchant for persistence.
However, this is certainly not to say Dabbla lacks in versatility on this project but rather that he has a delivery and flow which sounds equally at home over trap inspired cuts such as ‘F.U.T.D’ as it does over the more traditional boom-bap instrumentation featured on ‘Learnings’. This style is characterised by being as comedic as it is menacing, a fusion which commands the listener’s attention in a way of which not many rappers are capable. You will find that, even after one listen, certain bars are already etched into the memory. ‘Tabula rasa, the geezer is ex communicada-the moody father of all of these little nooby barrers’ is a standout which, as well as being endlessly catchy, combines philosophical (Tabula rasa being John Locke’s idea of the human mind being a ‘blank slate’) and pop culture references (John Wick being kicked out of the international order of assassins at the end of John Wick 2 and labelled ex communicada) in trademark bragadoccious and tongue in cheek fashion.
As with most High Focus records, it is hard to find fault with Death Moves. The production is slick throughout and features an impressive array of genres. However, while this is clearly an intentional move by Dabbla who describes his music as a ‘hybrid’, it can at times make the transition from one track to the next a little jarring. Nonetheless, this is certainly only a minor fault and goes unnoticed unless one is actively trying to find a defect within the release.
Finally, it would be criminal to write a Dabbla review without mentioning the visuals which accompany it. Created, directed and financed by the man himself, the series of nine videos served as a hobby for Dabbla who describes them as a way of alleviating boredom and spending his surplus income. They are hilarious and mesmeric in equal measure. Definitely check them out if you appreciate a bit of surreality and humour in your music videos. All in all, Death Moves is just shy of an hour of thoroughly enjoyable, infectious UK Hip Hop. It is brimming with personality and, perhaps most appealingly, doesn’t take itself too seriously.