Habitat & DJ Severe
(Boom Bap Professionals)
If you’re a fan of UK Hip-Hop then you should hopefully be familiar with the name Heavy Links. Hailing from the county of Lincolnshire, the three-man crew consisting of El Tel The Dopeness, Habitat and Donnie Propa have swiftly established themselves as one of England’s premier rap groups, with their EP releases “The Essence” (2012) and “Heavyweight” (2013) introducing their uncompromising brand of homegrown true-school Hip-Hop in no uncertain terms.
Now stepping outside the comfort zone of his work as a member of the Links, talented wordsmith Habitat has joined forces with Nottingham-based producer DJ Severe to craft “Empire Building”, an album that is as grand and impressive as its title suggests.
Clearly an emcee who enjoys being creative with words, Habitat goes beyond simple boasts and claims of microphone dominance, with the lyricist packing plenty of vivid imagery into his rhymes throughout this release.
Whilst many artists are happy to pander to the shrinking attention span of today’s rap audience by delivering simple, shallow verses that can immediately be understood and deciphered on first listen, Habitat ensures his wordplay offers plenty of rewind potential. Not in a way that means his efforts will go over the heads of his listeners, but it’s clear that each line heard here has been carefully thought about by someone with a genuine love for the art of rap.
Case in point, the opening “Valhalla Rhyming”, which blends historic references and larger-than-life metaphors with stirring production, as Habitat promises to “spin the planet” on his finger amidst Severe’s pounding beats, chopped strings and deft cuts.
“Lost Technology” is a soulful-but-stern dart aimed directly at the competition, with the Heavy Links member promising to “take it back to golden times”, as he questions the motives of some artists within the UK scene and scoffs at those “giving life advice but living at their sister’s flat” whilst flexing an engaging multi-syllable flow that propels the track along at an energetic pace.
Speaking of energy, the top-notch posse cut “Polyrythmic” finds Habitat passing the mic to Granville Sessions’ Mnsr Frites, Archetype, Heavy Links own El Tel and veteran UK Hip-Hop renaissance man Chrome of Def Tex fame. Over relentlessly funky production from Severe, the five emcees each attempt to up the lyrical ante in the spirit of friendly competition, with nobody wanting to be singled out for not bringing the best pages of their rhyme pads to the studio. This particular cut also serves as a potent reminder of just how much talent there is lurking within the subterranean world of the British rap scene.
The mellow “Set Em Free” lets us into Habitat’s personal space, as he details his decade-long journey to perfect his craft, whilst the anthemic production of the title track conjures up images of the forthright emcee rhyming in the middle of an ancient amphitheatre, surrounded by a chanting crowd as he hammers home verbal blows to all challengers, accompanied by a well-placed Channel Live vocal sample.
A succinct, striking project, this album showcases a strong musical chemistry between Habitat and Severe which bodes well for possible future collaborations.
In today’s world of disposable releases, it’s clear that “Empire Building” is more than just a title, it’s a reference to Habitat’s determination to leave a mark in the UK Hip-Hop history books, with music that will stand the test time and still get heads nodding when rediscovered and dusted-off in years to come.
Follow Habitat on Twitter – @HabitatHL
Habitat & DJ Severe – “Valhalla Rhyming” (BoomBapPro.Com / 2014)