High Focus 4th Birthday


Is this you? Are you bored? Did your exciting plans for the weekend drift away like a fart on a breeze, leaving you feeling low and distracted? High Focus can remedy that; as this Friday they’ve assembled UK Hip Hop’s finest, taking their yearly wreck up to new hedonistic heights by expanding their line-up, and finding an even larger stage to destroy at London’s Brixton Electric. After years of hard work, releasing over twenty home-grown Hip Hop classics from some of the country’s foremost MC’s; High Focus are set to celebrate their fourth year in the game, with live sets from everyone at the label, and unmissable appearances by Klashnekoff, Jehst, Buggsy, Kashmere, Children Of The Damned, Onoe Caponoe and Pete Cannon.

If there’s one thing that’ll cure your boredom and break up that crushing British work-week mundanity, it’s spending a few hours battering your ear holes with nothing but dope lyrics and heavy beats courtesy of Fliptrix and co. It’s guna be huge!


Rescue your weekend from the doldrums & help HF continue their boom-bap, born-day tradition by getting your ticket here.


Jack Jetson : The Adventures Of Johnny Strange


Entirely produced by Four Owls beat provider Leaf Dog; The Adventures Of Johnny Strange is a mind-mangling mission through the mind of Jack Jetson, who’s natural knack for penning huge choruses to break up his stream-of-consciousness flow makes every tune fresh. Wonderberry sees the Nottingham-born MC pluck colourful words out the ether, combining folklore with everyday mundanity into unpredictable lines;‘Ocean diver, snorkel and kaleidoscope, swim through the portal underwater puffin hydro smoke,  lookin through the microscope, lost in a lost dimension, I cop a ten and plot revenge on your flock of henchmen.’  Leaf Dog’s natural swing breezes in on Blue Moon‘s mid-paced bounce, with steady kicks and sailing strings that spark Jetson’s enthusiastic rhymes; while Strange Ways stacks enough memorable bars to have you quoting for days; as Jetson peppers his verses with creative couplets over Leaf’s brass-strewn stomp.

BVA begins Vitamins with bars that hit harder than the snare; and Jetson’s rhymes come more rooted in reality, firing off speedy lines over modulating piano loops, then continuing the rapid rhymes over operatic overtones on Deep Abyss. On Brain Rot  Jack matches his rhymes against escalating instrumentals as Leaf sources one of the album’s catchiest samples; then proceeds to deliver some dope lines on Stay True, which also marks the welcome return of his singing voice on a chorus that takes you right back to Some People Say. Mushroom Clouds is all about the binge as Jetson’s intricate bars pile on heaps of style and Dirty Dike gets characteristically rowdy, adding to his ever-expanding collection of ridiculously entertaining rhymes that find him tripping in a wigwam and dishing out sound life advice; ‘lets get an ounce of crack and rap the alphabet’.

Mental freedom to create your own reality is the message Jack sends over swaying soul loops on 8 Balls, before dropping drug-addled lyricism like Terence Mckenna blessing the mic on Too Nice; and channelling Aldous Huxley’s words to pry open the doors of perception on Locksmith. Sky Maze is all about the boom-bap bounce, with psychedelic sonnets that ring true ‘Office’s like prison cells, that shit’ll lock you down for life, have you doin time, every single day, 9 to 5.’ Leafy flips a sample that sounds like it was made especially for him on Super Human, providing another heavy hook amid vivid verses that close the LP, making it clear that The Adventures Of Johnny Strange is nothing but wall to wall bangers. Jack Jetson’s content constantly shapeshifts with a smoked-out steez that draws from all corners of his active imagination, flowing like water over Leaf’s soul gems. Since his guest bars on the Brothers Of The Stone banger Cartoon Days, Jetson’s rhymes have grown in depth and delivery, and no doubt as he continues to collaborate with some of the UK’s finest his style will only grow stronger.


The album’s out May 12th on RLD Records, pre-order the physical here, or the digital here.


BVA: The Be Very Aware Interview.

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After spending the last few weeks living inside his new album to write my review, and wondering about the man behind the mic on Be Very Aware; I was lucky enough to get to put some questions to BVA MC, in which he expanded on his lyrics and the big-name collabs on his last LP, shouted out David Jason, and inadvertently described my life with his ‘shitty kitchen job’ answer.

 Explain the process behind the album coming together?

Well it took about 2 to 3 years to make it and get it out, I’ve just been stockpiling solo songs for the album slowly whilst working on other projects like 4 Owls, Brothers Of The Stone etc. When I had a good pile I started getting the features in and just built on it basically; by that point I had a vision of what I wanted the album to be, saying what it needed. I definitely chopped and changed it a bit, but there’s a couple of older solos on there that stood the test of time.

Which beat had you reaching for your pen the quickest?

Probably ‘This Love Is Love’ you know, but a few of the others definitely had me reaching like ‘I Cant Hear You’, ‘Insomnileptic’ and ‘Am I Going Crazy’ for sure.

Did you feel any pressure as it’s your first solo LP for the label?

Yeah definitely a bit, but to be honest it feels more relieving now its here, its been a while coming eh? but it’s a new experience.

Is there any significance to dropping the album on valentines day?

Na hahaha just another day on the calendar, but I’ve been having a joke about it n shit for sure.

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You kept the collabs within the UK on this one, after that amazing KRS feature and Paz no doubt making your day with his ‘BVA, all day, official pistol gang’ line; are you planning more tracks with any American MCs in the future?

Yeah, even Fliptrix was wylin’ the fuck out when we got that Vinnie Paz verse and he ain’t even on the track! hahaha We got fucked up! Running around, shouting about it n that…….haha. That was all down to Leaf and Illinformed working with Paz with their beats innit, so he gave us a verse in exchange for their beats. I got the chance to meet him properly too when we supported him in Bristol, and he was a real safe guy, and DJ Eclipse of course, who’s been holding us down over there for a while. There’s a load of American artists I’d be down to work with though for sure.

On ‘Hype Man’ & ‘Frontin’ you speak on egotism and false personas. Are these character traits you come across often in the scene? What was the main motivation behind touching on those topics specifically?

Hahaha, plenty of inspiration for that one! but nah it’s something I’m sure we all come across all the time in life. I was definitely inspired by a couple of rappers to start writing it, but I quickly realised it wasn’t just the rappers, it just so happens that some people like to get overly gassed on themselves, you have to laugh!

In the ‘This Love Is Love’ video there’s an MPC in the room you’re chillin in, do you make beats?

Na man it ain’t actually my room, it’s Molotov’s room; he’s a producer that lives in HF HQ. I was just borrowing it for the video, and the cat’s Fliptrix’s cat ‘Irie’ but I might have to steal his cat eh? its got skills! I have made some beats over the years though, I’ve just never gone in on it, it might be something that I take more seriously one day, we’ll have to see. My producer name is Star Wishapon.

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How did the idea for the artwork come about? Did you decide the shit that would get flung in the swamp?

Yeah I had the vision for the front cover basically, I wanted a beaver by the dam with them sorts of things being held back by the dam. I told this to mark shields (ONE87ART) and he came back with sick sketches that look pretty much how it does now with colour, the back, the booklet. I knew I was onto a winner straight away, it was better than I had imagined it in my head.

You’ve talked about the daily grind and the work side of your life openly on the last few records, do you find it difficult to balance the restrictions of the system with the feeling of freedom your music and touring give you? 

For sure it restricts you, I was always that dude doing a shitty kitchen job, working all the time, getting sacked regularly just to rap and do gigs and then re-hired. Balancing rent n shit, it’s never been easy, but you just gotta stay dedicated. I work a lot less now; sell wares like Del Boy, get some help from the government etc and still struggle with it all financially sometimes to be honest, but I’m a lot happier now, and have more freedom to do productive things like bring out other rappers like Jack Jetson and Smellington Piff on mine and Leaf’s label RLD Records.

What influences you outside of music?


‘Crazy Trips’ & ‘Am I Going Crazy’ offer two sides of the same psylocibin-soaked coin, do you feel hallucinogenics ( including DMT ) and herb offer beneficial avenues for people to open their minds?

All I’d say is be real careful with the hallucinogenics, just do anything in moderation. The trippy shit can open some peoples minds, and fuck some peoples up. Every person is different, and you should never do anything too much. I’ve never done DMT so I couldn’t comment on that personally, but I’d say herb/weed/marijuana is different to all that, it’s definitely more of a healer, but again its not for some people, and helps others. If your gonna trip the fuck out though, my advice is stick to the tried and tested drugs that have been around for years, or grow from the ground! Stay away from all the new ones that no-one knows nothing about.

What area do you think people would benefit most from an expanded awareness of?

Each other!

BVA’s début solo album for High Focus Records is out now! Go cop that from the HF Store!

Shouts to BVA and High Focus!


BVA : Be Very Aware


Unless you’ve been basking under one of those old style rocks that doesn’t come with integrated internet access; you’re bound to have learnt that the label at the forefront of British rap’s recent renaissance has been High Focus Records. The label started by Fliptrix and a few friends has gone from strength to strength since it’s inception, becoming a household name in the UK hip hop scene and gaining a global following. The label’s earliest, and most revered release Nature’s Greatest Mystery, found Flipz, Verbs, Leafy & BVA donning feathered face-masks to write and perform as The Four Owls. Since then, the fans have heard the members collab on numerous HF releases, and gotten solo albums from three of the men minus their avian pseudonyms; but were left waiting when it came to Rusty Take Off AKA BVA’s own solo project for the label. On this new LP, the westcountry MC has supplied the fans with exactly what we’ve been waiting for; Be Very Aware is seventeen tracks of rugged rap goodness from the RLD camp that leaves no rock unturned, making it much harder for the technophobic people I made up in the intro to hide from the inevitable rise of one of the UK’s most commanding voices.

On an album almost entirely produced by boom-bap-blood-brothers Leaf Dog and Illinformed, you already know every track’s cream of the hip hop crop; and with nearly every artist on the High focus label guesting, and the giant leaps BVA has been making in both content and delivery, this album is essential for any UK hip hop heads. The intro sample that recurs throughout the LP frames not only the album’s content but also the rapper’s personality well, bringing a light-hearted, yet realistic tone. Rain Or Shine hammers straight out of the gate at a pace likely to get everyone’s neck snappin as Leaf Dog’s ear for soulful samples serves him well once again. The lyrical course BVA sets early on is reflective of the LP’s title; from his personal perspective on ‘lookin for inner peace’ to advice for the listeners; ‘If you’ve lost you, then go find him, cuz everyone’s got their own diamonds they’re shaping and refining’. 


Hype Man keeps the mood chilled with another of the RLD producer’s placid instrumentals that’ll have you packing piff like Borat packed in questions about cheese in that supermarket. BVA takes the time to touch on the pitfalls of pride many have fallen into as their music and egos blow up, trading humbleness for overblown self importance in this cautionary anecdote. Fellow brother Of The Stone Illinformed makes his first appearance with some strong production that keeps things simple for BVA to impart his views on Frontin. His words pull no punches, calling out anyone posing, and promising things they can’t deliver, but keeping the content positive by adding lines to inspire; ‘there’s no shame in saying there’s something you’re lacking’.

This Love Is Love is a heartfelt ode to the culture we all owe so much to; with BVA reppin the reasons Hip Hop moves him. The dope video that accompanies the tune is itself a fitting tribute to beatmaking, tagging, writing rhymes, diggin vinyl and smoking grade, with BVA bringing some fire in the booth backed by his High Focus family. ‘Give me a fat bag of weed and some beats and you won’t see the Beaver for weeks, capisce?’ Leaf outdid himself with Where’s The Mic At? It’s one of the album’s highlights, as the duo with more chemistry than Crick and Watson work their magic over the song’s ghostly operatic overtones. This style is what the Real Life Drama crew are known for perfecting; penning verses full of metaphor that flow loose and breezy like MC Hammer’s fucked up trousers. Leaf Dog’s chorus sees him at his rowdy best; ‘If ya showin us love, we show it right back, only really concerned with where the mic’s at‘, and BVA’s verse is one of his strongest deliveries to date, ‘they say it’s drastic but not from where I’m sittin, there’s sour milk in the fridge but the wise took a sip and kept spittin, don’t speak commandments, but know we’ve written them, stonecut the track and spit flows in the incision.’  

The first influx of grade-A guest appearances kicks off with style on the riotous It’s A Mad World; Sammy B Side scratches up some K-lash, Dre, Jam Baxter and KRS with his distinct style that has developed drastically over the last year, and Cracker Jon & BVA bring their best to this banger, as does HF- head-honcho Fliptrix; who manages to convey balance through a cluster of contradictory comparisons in his outstanding sixteen. Verb T’s now classic character makes a surprising, yet welcome return with his Dick Tru-Say Skit, making this my favourite appearance from the jocular disc jockey yet; the end of which edges ever-closer to that raging Alan Partridge impression you know T must have perfected by now. Gifted is another of the LP’s best, and when that sense of humour creeps over into verb’s bars you get gems; I gotta spread the gift, women want Verb T on December 25th, under the tree, wearing nothin but a grin, do they? or do they ask ‘man, what the fuck is up with him?”

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Can’t Hear You is one of the best HF tracks BVA has put his name to; the beat’s lethargic horns plod forward as the MC reminds the haters why he’s still too high to hear their cries, dodges honey traps and keeps an open mind around blinkered people. That potent herb gets a shout out again on three minute intoxicant dedication Weapon Of Choice; each of the three rappers dedicating their bars to their chosen method of inebriation. Dirty Dike’s alcoholic ramblings come clear and stinking like the cider bubble he’s trapped his mind in, and since Return Of The Twat he’s gotten filthier, and more debauched. Every guest appearance he seems to get more hopelessly hammered yet stronger with the words, like Bukowski with bars. Even with two slamming verses preceding him, Kashmere drops another heavy verse. The Iguana Man’s on fine form as he divulges his altered states of consciousness come from dimethyltriptamine trips, and takes you on a psychedelic journey through his innerspace with lyrics more potent and mentally challenging than the synthesized version of the organic compound he’s ingesting.

Since Reuben’s Train Rag N Bone man can do no wrong in my eyes, and once again his guest vocals add weight to any song he graces. Thankfully, the ostensibly derogatory title of That Old Bitch is metaphor for jealousy, as BVA pens one of his more personal songs and shows how far he’s come over the last few years. ‘I find myself hating rich kids but let it go, cuz moneys born from trees, man you can watch it grow, and they were born into their lives, and me in mine, I free my mind because hating is a waste of time.’  NLP’s Smellington Piff makes a storming guest appearance on lonely stoner anthem Let Me Relax In My Cave. It still blows my mind how huge this dude’s voice is; he smashes his verse, packing in truth like he packs a bowl; ‘hate them posh pricks who claim they ‘do weed’ and get pissed off of two pimms, wearing tight jeans, tank tops and mood rings.’ BVA’s verse is standardly strong and stylish; this kind of beat brings out his rugged side as he gets down to spittin some sick bars with a hunger you can hear ‘Normally I’m calmer than the average, on the flipside, smash shit, grab kids over-react quick, stood in the shitstorm without a raincoat, I walk amongst the sheep, but I’m not tryin’a be the scapegoat.’ Be Gone Bitches has some nice verses, but ultimately the beat isn’t as good as the rest; the chorus is too repetitive, and even though BVA explains that it’s not a slight against women, you’re not likely to be singing along with that one unless you fancy sounding a bit derogatory.

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Amdek’s only production credit on Be Very Aware is a monster of a beat that leaves Leaf and Beav relaying their hallucinatory experiences on mushies with their trademark style. Its dope the way their verses interact with each other, both speaking on their mate in the garden from two different tripped-out perspectives. BVA begins his bars by spewing his brew back up, then seeing wildebeest on the mantelpiece; and after trying to bend spoons in the kitchen, Leafy has a chat with himself for a bit then manages to clamber back to the ‘real world’s’ grey days just in time to kill the chorus with some lines bound to go down well on the festival circuit; ‘Give me shrooms, give me weed, gimme 2C-I & LSD, lick a frog, smoke the bark from a tree, people just come an take a trip with me.’ After that departure from the production style of previous tracks, the album gets really interesting as the experimentation shakes up the status quo further with the cloud-stepping sitar strains of InsomnilepticIllinformed pulls one of his best productions out the bag and makes a beat that sounds like smoking your way through a comedown. BVA switches up his style and writes with a more stream-of-consciousness flow that darts between daydream and waking life and echoes eerily like it’s simultaneously moving closer and further away from you; the whole track is like delving into the mid of burnt-out hippies lamenting the death of Timothy Leary, in a good way. Am I Going Crazy is another beat that makes you wana start rapping your tits off; which is exactly what BVA proceeds to do, only finally slowing his momentum when the album finishes; making this tune and Spit The Soulder two tracks packed with solid bars, ill scratches and dope beats to round off this début album as strongly as it began. Top to bottom BVA has delivered everything you’d want as a fan, and added some interesting curve balls with the beat selection late on in the second half, and brought the fire lyrically but kept his lines watertight, insightful and relevant. Be Very Aware is an essential album, full of hype tracks that were made to be played in headphones chillin with red eyes, or blasted over a loudspeaker as you flip tables and neck ten cans; the shit’s so exciting it makes me wana do both.

The album’s out this friday! Go grab the double vinyl with digital download or CD version from HF!



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