Hey!Zeus : Holy Cow

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Obba Supa producer Hey!Zeus is back with another dope production on his new 7″ Holy Cow. Jehst and Kashmere spin a potent lyrical cocktail that measures equal parts eastern mysticism with UK slang, blessing a jangling beat that vapourizes wooden percussion and oriental flutes into a thick haze that lingers between the emcee’s esoteric bars. To celebrate this essential slice of psychedelic wax, the London-based beatmaker has organized a free show next Wednesday at The Silver Bullet. DJ sets come from Evil Ed, Boom Bap Professional’s Oliver Sudden, 7th Dan, Dusty Green Fuzz and Sonny Delight, while the line-up of emcee’s boasts both a Strange U and Kashmere solo set, TD’s Ray Vendetta and Tesla’s Ghost, and a spoken word set from Ma’ankha Bast. Holy Cow will get a digital and vinyl release in early October, with a video dropping soon.

More details on the event page here. 

Peace!

BVA : Be Very Aware

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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’. 

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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!

4/5.

Peace.

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Verb T : I Remain.

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On October the 23rd Verb T releases his seventh solo album; I Remain. It’s his best yet. If you know UK Hip Hop, you know the man needs no introduction, he’s been doing this underground music thing longer than a lot of us have been listening to it. In 2011 he aligned himself with Fliptrix’s seemingly inexhaustible High Focus records, formed The Four Owls and released Natures Greatest Mystery; one of the hands-down , flat-out illest UK Hip Hop albums of the last Ten years, and subsequently introduced himself to a whole new generation of young Hip Hop heads.

A year later he released his High Focus solo debut Morning Process; an album that at the time stepped everything up another level again for his craft. The rhymes were as tight as ever, the beats were by some of the UK’s biggest names (some of the dopest from Verbs himself) and the album has stood the test of time and set a personal and general precedent for modern UK Hip Hop. On I Remain he’s balanced his talent for catchy, hazy song structure with major chorus hooks, over some heavy self-produced beats and finally achieved the musical equivalent to the nirvana he speaks of seeking lyrically.

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All That Exists illustrates everything that makes I Remain so good. The drums cut through the hazy, lean up, ambient samples, like listening to classic boom bap through a wall in a dingy bar. The chorus is injected with highly musical vocal lines, and this from the self proclaimed ‘monotone man’ as he sings with his laidback intonation, crafting memorable melodies that infect your mental until you’re singing along with him after a few listens.

Dawn reiterates the themes found on Morning Process with another call to ‘ get yourself up’. The beat so completely captures the feeling of waking up too early to ‘get on with it’  it makes me knackered just listening; and he’s really nailed it by changing up his delivery to a lazy, morning drawl to match the vibe; knitting intricate lyrical patterns in a dream-like stream of consciousness flow that holds some of my favourite writing he’s produced so far.

Dust clouds, broken glass, stained photographs, old school vinyl spinning round on the phonograph. Hold the mask, breathe the oxygen, I’m tripping off my head, distorted visions of opulence”.

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 The title track is amazing. The change in rhythm and flow half way through feels effortless despite its complexity;  the video is one of the freshest he’s dropped, and it’s without a doubt one of the biggest tunes of the year. Dopey Eyes is my percy, probably cuz I’m a sucker for piano loops; to be fair though, even if you hate pianos and spew violently every time you see one, there’s something to be enjoyed here. It’s placed perfectly after the upbeat bounce of I Remain, and lyrically the honesty coming through the speakers speaks for itself.

Toast Jazz finds Verbs bringing back some of the  more light-hearted comedy aspects of Serious Games, schooling some kids then  sounding like Chappelle’s Tupac rhyming about the delights of bread-based snacks;  “First we get the toaster, then we put the bread in, when it pops up you get the margarine and spread it” On first listen bars about toast stopped me dead in my tracks, I had to just sit and laugh; the presence of his sense of humour was a little light on Morning Process so it’s awesome to have it back and on fine form. Those lines are so catchy that if anyone asked me to recite anything from I Remain right now i’d be biting Verb’s toast-flow, chortling to myself like an idiot.

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Honesty is why Verb T is still entertaining fifteen years into his career. Maybe we didn’t need to know about the illness in his guts that was disgusting on the last album, but we did need to be reminded that internet dependency is a threat to real life. A year later on Old and Grumpy he plays teacher again by decrying the pitfalls of following fashion trends, making the listener think twice about how he or she spends their free time and highlighting the the detrimental element that TV plays in a lot of people’s day to day. Despite his strong opinions, his self awareness is still not lost, calling himself a ‘grumpy prick’ backed by a chorus of people shouting at him demonstrates his awareness that the youth won’t listen to his words until they figure this shit out for themselves, and keeps his highly public ageing process a cheerful one.

It’s the paper that enslaved the people, blatant it’s evil you’re fake an deceitful, vacant and see through, wait for the sequel”

The hazy, jazz numbers and catchy chorus’s continue with the chilled, bassy plod of Dear Life. Kashmere’s feature on Mummified Remains only serves to make the song even stronger, as both verses are fire and the beat is one of Verb T’s best. Control Madness benefits from headphones to fully appreciate the swirling, panning reverberations. Lyrically the verses are some of the album’s best and as he applies his acute sense of social awareness to society as a whole through his personal ups and downs. The chorus is up there with the intro and outro tracks as one of the album’s best. Lost pays tribute to the deceased Gang Starr MC  formerly known as MC Keithy-E without getting too teary-eyed; and holds some gems of knowledge and clever wordplay that Sammy B-Side compliments with some freshly cut Guru samples.

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Look Now is  another slammer. To take no bass boosts, no heavy drum loops, and no klaxons or bomb-drops, and make something this heavy with only clean samples is real skill; the melody itself is pretty placid, it’s downright pleasant, but as soon as those drums kicked in my neck knew it was in for a busy Three minutes. Fliptrix’ bars kill; and once again his guest verses on other HF artists’ stuff are experimental, challenging and interesting. Definitely a song that’s guna go down well live all over the country throughout the next year or more without a doubt, and another reason you need this album in your life.

The Power Within plods at a pace that forces you to paying full attention to the words; which is a bonus as there’s a lot being said. Using self belief and harnessing positive forces within your thoughts to actualize them into your reality are some of the most important words of advice you can give anyone. “You got no heart, then you got no chance, laying with the devil getting ready for the slow dance. Do for yourself, don’t wait, you’ll be done for, one false move, now you gotta backtrack.”  The second comedy interlude Backstage features the same annoying, clueless kids from Toast Jazz, as they rap dire shit at Verbs after a show. Once again it’s a nice break in the album, but I imagine is probably slightly too close to the truth to be totally comical for the man making them. Everybody Needs rounds the album off with another catchy classic as if to prove one last time that this is Verb T 100% smashing it on every line, and with every perfectly positioned kick and snare. 

This far into a career in anything a lot of people would lose interest, rest on their laurels, lie down, or give in; Verb T still gives any MC/producer in the UK a run for their money and brings the heat while sounding cool. Everything about the album is top notch, and shows extensive attention to detail; even the colours in the Lost video match the palette on the album’s cover. Every beat is different from the last but fits as an integral part of the whole, and the decision to self-produce from start to finish adds a complete cohesiveness to the albums sound.  The strong return of his sense of humour on tracks and skits is welcome, making it a much more interesting experience, and the positive state his mind seems to be in is reflected in his upbeat delivery, with forward-thinking lyricism. Verb T has clearly put everything into I Remain, and it shows.

5/5.

Peace.

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Underground Classics: Kashmere ‘In The Hour Of Chaos’

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‘I’m droppin ill spells in a physical dimension’

Around this time of year Seven years ago the West London MC was gearing up to release his debut. The collection of songs he put out took his talented, charismatic flow and dipped it in a thick black tar; emerging even fresher, yet darker and slicker than before. After the praise he’d gotten off his side of the Technical Illness/Backhand Slap Talk split with Verb T on Braintax’s Lowlife label; the quickly rising MC capitalised on his momentum, extensively touring the UK and getting into the studio to record ‘In The Hour Of Chaos’. With production from UK heavyweights Chemo, DJ IQ, Beat Butcha, L.G. and the man himself.

From the first utterance on ‘The Ark’ Kashmere spits venom with a righteous fire. Coming lyrically laden with comic book and occult imagery effortlessly inter-weaved with myriad biblical references. It’s definitely an alone in your room, headphones on,  zone-in experience; even with full attention to the lyrics the man crafts it’s still hard to catch everything he’s putting across in each verse.

I had to stop and look up ambigram and cumulonimbus just to understand one sentence from ‘The Ark’. Kashmere writes from an omniscient perspective; like someone having a near death experience and viewing the world objectively as one consciousness free from time and space. In the first few bars he namechecks a doctor that delivers euthanasia, the time travelling car from Back To The Future and a mythical sect of witches from Argentina with a straight-faced delivery that makes the last two sound as plausible as the first. He’s so far down the rabbit hole he’s set up a lab and started sampling Agharti breaks on tracks that would make Jules Verne shit.

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Things get even deeper from there. ‘Black Sea’ sees Verb T and Red joining the fray. The Three spinning shadowy soliloquies that paint vivid pictures of vampire transformation, altars of sacrifice and tales of the evil forces in the universe feeding off fear. Kashmere’s verse is strikingly impressive once again; “The only way to defeat something is understanding it, but deep inside my soul I’m trying very hard to balance it. The darkness feeds, off your weakness, and so I’m here to show the extreme on both sides of the deepness. Yo peep this, my lyrical form is peak-less, elevating infinite like the ascension of Jesus.” You can’t even attempt to write like that without some serious knowledge of self and complete conviction. Alhamra’s beat knocks hard and mean with a creepy orchestral edge and a chorus that’ll stick in your mind like mental post-it notes.

Every beat on this album is a certified classic; one of the most instantly recognisable is L.G’s haunting jazz on ‘Souls Of The Unborn’. Jehst’s verse finds him at his peak flowing tight and esoteric. “At the epicentre of the sandstorm, many men perish in the belly of the Rancor, know they ran for the cover of the trees, they were already marked with the number of the beast”. The two men’s verses together are near impenetrable at first, one after another in quick succession covering a lot of ground thematically and leaving you barely enough room to work out each reference before moving on. After countless listens, I still find little touches I never noticed before. Subtlety is the highlight in this understated anthem.

The idea of villains feeding off fear is delved into again in ‘Bones’. With tales of dragons, dinosaurs, Godzilla, and Kashmere playing hero confronting George W. Bush as a malevolent entity revealed to be ‘an evil beast with ten heads and fifty eyes’. It’s over the top, and cartoonish, but with a little research you realise that taking the more extreme notions of the conspiracy world and melding them with a cohesive plot is demented genius. To make that a highly listenable experience over a stripped down Jehst beat all in under four minutes is straight up talent.

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‘Opium Foetus’ floats along with Verb T guesting again over breezy rhythms. The pairing works as amazingly on tracks as it does on stage. Pineal glands, out of body experiences, ‘cannabis dreams of fire oceans’, and mind elevation is the content embedded within this ethereal allegory. L.G. picks up the vibe nicely after a real gloomy few tracks, beginning an alleviation of the mood that IQ continues into ‘Dead Gorillas On Broadway’. A confident recital that shouts out a diverse number of sources, from Clarence 13X and the 5% Nation to Sega’s Golden Axe, and puts the fakes in their place with a reminder that Kashmere can brag as engagingly as any of his peers.

After that brief breath of fresh air from underneath the tide of information you’re joyfully drowning in by this point, shit gets bleak again. End-Of-The-World-Bleak. ‘Spawn Of Pazuzu’  is witches, paganism, catholic assassins, and theological war invoked by the wrath of the eponymous ancient Assyrian demon. Add Beat Butcha to that eclectic blend and it’s another heavy track. “It’s the beginning, the end of all times, can you see the signs? The chaos hour, paralyse, kill devour, summon the ancient power.” 

L.G. kills the production again on ‘Have Faith’. Sampling choral singing with an eastern feel and Krs-ONE bars to create one of the more spacious songs on the album. The lead single ‘Playing With Fire’ is the perfect intro to his work, primarily as his subject matter is made slightly more accessible through the use of standard song structure and an atmospheric Chemo beat. Secondarily, if a cloaked man bopping about a mountain chattin about magic is too much for the casual listener, they’d be reaching for the safe predictability of a more mainstream album upon meeting the rest of the albums content.

‘Divine Communication’ finds Kashmere and Iron Braydz trading verses over a futuristic Chemo beat. The third verse especially stands out. Both rappers firing off densely packed sentences contemplating dimensional shifts and astral projection. On ‘Lady Of The Lake’ the MC sidesteps the popular myth of Arthur’s retrieval of Excalibur at the lake’s edge; and goes straight for the lady herself. Experiencing a lucid interval which takes him on a journey through love and death with Nimue ( that’s the watery sword wielding bint btw ) by his side as they take hallucinogenic trips into the psychedelic heavens. Tranqill’s production is an album highlight. For a guy that was closer to being unknown than the other big names behind the boards; he sounds unphased, and builds a grandiose beat that ramps up the scope of Kashmere’s unfolding saga. Check out his 2011 Hidden Treasures EP for more.

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Greed and science, Lucifer leading us astray, well curiosity murked the cat people say, even though we were created crazy, as inquisitive creatures, always on the look out for the newest features”.

 The Iguana man takes a heavy handed stab at the Darwinian school of thought accredited by mainstream science on ‘Alpha to Omega’, the first in a Chemo two punch combo that closes the album. He’s strongly opinionated when it comes to his belief; lamenting the fall of spirituality in modern society as science takes prominence in the minds of the public. And casting his third eye over the invention of the wheel and the curability of disease to chart man’s ascension and eventual demise within the cyclical nature of the universe.  “Prepare for the end, and from the end to the beginning, the lord starts again peep the aqua life swimming, now see the brave ones venturing onto the land,  Knowledge, Wisdom expand”

‘Veronica R.I.P’ had to be the last track, it’s too good not to be, if you were in the studio trying to follow any verse he penned on this last one you’d stumble harder than Arkwright gettin Granville’s name out his lips. It’s storytelling at it’s peak, a love story with a bitter twist. I won’t wreck it you haven’t heard it, but it’s a perfectly crafted curveball.  “Deception, it was unreal, Stephen King combined with Danielle Steele“.

The album endures as a classic, you’d be hard pressed to find better fantasy lyricism from anyone. The sheer magnitude of Kashmere’s reference material would take the average man months to begin to decipher; as with all great MC’s the more you personally overstand, the more rewarding the listening is. It’s not an easy album to get hold of, but some online digging can get you a cd copy. The follow up release on YNR ‘Raiders Of The Lost Archives’, and the Boot Records ‘Power Cosmic’ LP under the name ‘Galaktus’ are both available at Suspect Packages and are well worth a look. His Hunter S. Thompson inspired ‘Kingdom Of Fear’ project with Jehst, and ‘Scarlet Jungle EP’ under the Strange U moniker with Dr Zygote indulge his more experimental side, but still keep things hip hop.

Big Up Kashmere! Support underground music by buying it direct from the artists!

Peace.