I first heard about Charlie Mac’s dope production skills when Chester P posted about his Instrumentals Vol 3 tape earlier this year. The Task Force MC would also be responsible for much of the country hearing about Ramson Badbonez for the first time back when he was only 14, as he was given the opportunity to spit on Louiz Slipperz £10 Bag series. After the backing from Task Force the young MC really went to work, spitting furiously for years on mixtape after quality mixtape, featuring on every youtube channel that was reppin British Hip Hop at the time, destroying mics at radio shows, and finally releasing his debut album Bad Influence last year.
This year he’s still grindin’ hard; linking with High Focus Records to finally find the business backing his talent deserves, and opening his rhymes up to a much wider audience internationally through HF’s ever-expanding fanbase. Fliptrix has been shoutin’ him out and playing shows with him for time now, and even though heads know his flow is unstoppable; he’s been under a lot of people’s radar for too long. A Year In The Life Of Oscar The Slouch is about to change that. For the first time his music has become more accessible; largely due to Charlie Mac, who’s diverse production style allows Badbonez to extend his range, and spray his bars with more structure than before. This is the closest the UK has gotten to a fully catchy, hook-heavy, street banger in years. British rappers have been making niche music for underground listeners for so long, albums that sound this big and easily translatable weren’t something I expected to come along so soon, especially not from one of the most aggy, unapologetically underground MCs the country has produced in recent times. Despite the album’s memorable appeal, Badbonez still verbally decapitates any competition within radius, and brings that raw poetry straight from the pavement, speaking on his experience through the eyes of his colourful caricature of a protagonist.
The album begins as dark as the winter months that inspire it; Badbonez fills Oscar’s shoes and relates tales of tough living through a wide sociological scope on a dreary beat that hits hard. In Da Blitz Time comes out aggressive “Straight from the back alleys & trash cans of no hope”; The verses are gutter, the scratches are fierce and the beat’s rough with a throwback swagger that grooves hard. Whateva Da Weatha has it all. I’m talkin Dre levels of beat making on display with neatly cut piano samples and epic string accents to match; Ramson employs a lyrical manoeuvre seldom heard and perfectly starts and ends his words to the stops and starts Charlie’s sample’s make. Beats like this are what the tongue-in-cheek confidence of Mystro’s flow was made for, he drops a standardly accomplished verse with as much effortless style as you’d expect. Gadget’s hook is huge, and the additional strings give the chorus a vintage soul feel despite the G’d up nature of the content. I duno where Gadget has been hiding but he and Rag N Bone Man need to make an album over Leafy beats immediately.
On any other album Scruffy,Bummy,Hungry would be stand out; on an album this packed with first-rate tunes it’s falls kinda flat. Baxter & JokerStarr’s bars fit the style but are limited by their inability to really convey message, or form a lasting impression with their content. April Fool’s Day is another modern stormer that owes much of it’s strength to Charlie Mac; the beat’s perfect for Badbonez to bring out his belligerent best, giving you an insight into shottin’ as Oscar continues his 365 day span struggling through Britain’s underbelly with some memorable bars; “I’m sayin, fuck a job vacancy, I’m up early in the morning slot, blazin’ trees on the block making P’s”. M.A.B from Three Headed Beast provides a solid, heartfelt verse and the chorus hook that Balance carries well sits nicely but is too convoluted and minor to possess any real staying power; as far as good new Hip Hop goes though; if you’re not swinging your arms about like Meth in Rhyme & Reason by the time both MCs trade lines on the third verse you might just be in the wrong corner of the internet.
As the summer months brighten up and we find Oscar in the month of May as he still receives no respite from the hardships of modern living. Dealing with his day to day by selecting his poison from a buffet of intoxicants, and zoning to 90’s Hip Hop on Just Da Way It Is. His bars are littered with allusions to Hip Hop’s greatest albums and Mac’s great use of atmospheric elements and some lyric cuts straight from the classics vault make it another banger. Foul Moods is up there with the albums best; not even Ramson lyrically throwing pints of piss at racists, hookers and street violence can dampen the mellow vibe the carefree beat brings; it could have benefited from a switch-up in content, but Badbonez is stickin to the script he wrote for Oscar, and is obviously aware that straying conceptually would detract from the album’s cohesion.
Chains & Whips adds some much needed variety in theme and some dope verses with it; Ramson spits nothin but truth; after his uplifting verse on Twizzy collab ‘The Essence’ earlier this year, this return to a more insightful flow is welcome; “Ancestors hang helpless from their 24 carat gold or platinum chain, all to keep the masses wealthy, ghosts and hopelessness, ford focus’s, most the shit you own is that length of rope to choke you with.” Genesis Elijah goes in just as hard; he’s been on fire this year, and his scorching course continues as he references the revolutionary actions of Nat Turner and Malcolm Little. His wise words carry historical weight, and find correlation between the modern banking system and the Middle Passage’s lucrative human trade; “The Bank Of England was built on the slave trade, for six straight centuries, not a penny they paid back, for the free labour or the profits they made, now the names have changed but it’s basically the same game.”
As Oscar’s 365 day epoch nears it’s twilight, the autumn months bring some last rays of optimism before the album sinks back into the cold sting of winter. The addition of Rag N Bone Man’s distinctive voice on the title track adds a depth that otherwise might be missing from the bare bones of the simple beat. Ramson’s verse is much of the same conceptually but also once again provides top class lyricism from the seasoned writer. As usual Fliptrix’s verse shines brightly amongst the otherwise dark vibrations on the track. His accounts of the rough side of life are lifted by his ever-present sense of optimism, and his parting message is a testament to his spiritual strength. As soon as I heard Desperation I knew the album was guna be something special, Ramson hammers out words with feel over a chilled beat that holds a more positive message than a lot of the content carries lyrically. Even after repeated listens, it still stands as one of the album’s best tracks; not to mention one of the nicest High Focus videos to date.
December swings around and Let The Others Know finds a nice closing point that’s bang in the middle of the Mac and Badbonez’ style; it’s got real soul and warmth that Ramson’s lyrics provide with an edge. Oscar’s year ends the same way it began, living on the breadline in Britain’s backstreets trying to get by; and although the character’s story didn’t arc as much as it stayed in one spot and documented a point of view; it did provide an entertainingly accurate snapshot of inner city life from a perspective that is too often marginalised or disregarded. If you’re looking for an underground Hip Hop record with polished production, ill scratches of some classic lyrics, consistently adept lyricism and some banging tracks look no further; but if like me, your prefer your musical choices to elucidate on fresh topics with content you can return to and glean new information from as your perspective grows, you may be slightly let down. By the halfway point the album begins to hit a wall as Badbonez topics are limited to his immediate experience as relayed through Oscar. Concept albums are an idea you rarely come across in Hip Hop, and although A Year In The Life Of Oscar The Slouch works well initially; its tight concept limits it’s appeal in the long run.
Check out Oscar’s council estate chronicles for yourself here.