Habitat’s rhymes with Lincolnshire crew Heavy Links have always been on point. Lately he’s linked with Nottingham’s DJ Severe and London label Boom Bap Professionals to release Empire Building, and his knack for reality rap with a conscious style has developed into ten tracks stacked with tight verses and heady wordplay. Severe’s cuts make for classic choruses, while every beat knocks with a traditional steez that makes for a celebratory album that revels in Hip Hop culture. The rock-solid foundation this empire builds on begins with clear intent, as Severe transforms, crabs and orbits over funky piano loops and Rakim samples. The first single Valhalla Rhyming wastes no time in demonstrating Habitat’s skillfull vocabulary; his sixteens overflow with clever lines that progress in quality, peaking with an intricate third verse.
Habitat’s ear for aliteration and complex sentences provides more flawless prose on Lost Technology, and by the time Severe’s Nas and Main Source cuts kick in on the hook it’s game over. Deep Purple cools out to fat soul loops chopped with that chunky Premier style; before Granville Session’s Mnsr Frites and Archetype join El Tel The Dopeness and Chrome to flow on mellow flutes for Polyrhymthic‘s old-school stomp. Severe demonstrates his versatility on Distraction, flipping soul vocals with as much melodic sensibility as he showed on the instrumentation of earlier tracks; while Habitat rides the smooth rhythms to ‘isolate the limits of existence on a higher plane’, as his words intertwine with a technicality that deserves repeated listens.
A well-placed Verb T sample gives Set Em Free it’s catchiness, as Habitat pens some complex lines; ‘your on the wavelength of the populist optimist, follow synchronicity, exist with honesty, synonymous, true glorious defeat over anonymous victory, preferring obscure beliefs to their obvious delivery.’ The title tracks hits hard, setting up B.O.M.B’s Oliver Sudden and Luca Brazi to bring their entertaining bars to Early Bird‘s cool jazz tones. Ayn Rand’s mammoth final book Atlas Shrugged might not be your usual source of inspiration to close a Hip Hop record; but Habitat’s take on her objectivist ode to capitalism works surprisingly well. It’s his mental wealth that shines through the LP’s last verses; as he paraphrases George Orwell, and name-checks philosophers while spinning sentences that take you ‘to barren lands, where I challenge the inhabitants, to stand against the tide of tight tyrannical arrogance.’
Boom Bap Professionals have been releasing quality UK Hip Hop for time, and this latest release adds to their canon of impressively executed LP’s. for Severe and Habitat to pull off a completely solid album from start to finish with no filler is no easy feat, and keeping it captivating the whole time deserves a whole other set of props. This is the kind of sturdy rap record we used to see regularly, snap it up before the rest of the world catches on.
Empire Building comes out June 12th, pre-order it on wax, digital or CD here.