Tag Archives: Heavy Links

Album Review – Habitat & DJ Severe

habitat cover

Habitat & DJ Severe

“Empire Building”

(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.

Ryan Proctor

Follow Habitat on Twitter – @HabitatHL

Habitat & DJ Severe – “Valhalla Rhyming” (BoomBapPro.Com / 2014)

New Joint – Habitat & DJ Severe

Habitat & DJ Severe – “Valhalla Rhyming” (BoomBapPro.Com / 2014)

The Heavy Links emcee drops the lead single from his forthcoming DJ Severe-produced album “Empire Building” which features appearances from fellow UK mic fiends such as Mnsr Frites, Chrome and Oliver Sudden.

 

The Premo Takeover Mixtape Download – Donnie Propa

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Donnie Propa of UK crew Heavy Links has put together a monster of a mix-tape in conjunction with Dephect Clothing featuring a long list of British emcees such as Verb T, Juga-Naut and Efeks rhyming over classic DJ Premier instrumentals – download here.

52 Best Albums & EPs Of 2013 (Part Five) – Life MC / The Doppelgangaz / K-Def etc.

Benny Diction & Able8 – “Life Moves” (Boom Bap Professionals) – UK emcee Benny Diction teamed-up with Australian producer Able8 for this quality collection of insightful rhymes and boundary-pushing beats. Able’s swirling synths, thick bass and dense drums provided an unpredictable soundscape for Diction’s unique view of the world around us.

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Wyld Bunch – “Unbreakable” (Effiscienz) – Backed by the soulful boom-bap production of France’s DJ Brans, the Brooklyn-based Bunch effectively captured the essence of golden-era East Coast Hip-Hop on this eight track EP which also featured the lyrical skills of  Masta Ace, Torae and Roc Marciano.

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Life MC – “Gift Of Life” (LifeMC.BandCamp.Com) – Having remained a staple of the UK Hip-Hop scene since his 90s debut as a member of Phi-Life Cypher, Life continued his successful musical chemistry with producer DJ Nappa, dropping another worthy addition to his solo catalogue which was packed with his usual blend of poignant social commentary and emcee bravado.

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DJ Format & Phill Most Chill – “The Foremost” (Project Blue Book) – Taking it back to the future, UK producer Format and veteran Philadelphia-based emcee Phill Most Chill delivered an uptempo blast of true-school b-boy flavour celebrating dusty breakbeats, lyrical agility and a shared love of Hip-Hop culture.

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Truth Universal – “Invent The Future” (Truth Universal Music) – At a time when many would argue that lyrical substance has been lost in Hip-Hop, New Orleans emcee Truth Universal dropped some serious edutainment on his latest project, tackling issues such as urban violence, health and poverty with insight and authority over dope beats from the likes of P.U.D.G.E., Kev Brown and Khrysis.

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Esoteric & Stu Bangas – “Machete Mode” (Man Bites Dog Records) – Not content with having already dropped a quality album in 2013 as one third of CZARFACE, Boston mic icon Esoteric joined forces with Stu Bangas to spit sharp lyrical barbs over the producer’s trademark sonic aggression on this hard-hitting project.  Well-placed guest appearances from the likes of Ill Bill, Vinnie Paz and Celph Titled kept the hardcore levels of “Machete Mode” peaking throughout.

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Qwel & Maker – “Beautiful Raw” (Galapagos4 Records) – The Chicago duo journeyed through a myriad of emotions on this multi-layered project which took the listener from the pain of struggle to the joy of success and everywhere in-between. Qwel’s passionate verses were a perfect match for Maker’s masterful musicianship, resulting in an album that will no doubt stand as an enduring body of work for years to come.

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The Doppelgangaz – “HARK” (Groggy Pack Entertainment) – NY’s Matter OV Fact and EP continued to promote the Black Cloak Lifestyle on their latest shadowy opus, mixing hypnotic, drum-heavy production with off-centre rhymes about questionable substances, personal hygiene and the finer points of the fairer sex. Like a good liquor, the ‘Gangaz once again proved themselves to be sonically dark, intoxicating and addictive.

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K-Def – “One Man Band” (Redefinition Records) – Taking inspiration from the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, 24-Carat Black and DJ Premier, the gifted New Jersey producer gave a new lick of musical paint to some familiar grooves on this ambitious instrumental EP, mixing the old with the new and adding another dimension to K-Def’s already impressive skills behind the boards.

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Heavy Links – “Heavyweight” (HeavyLinks.BandCamp.Com) – UK trio Habitat, El Tel and Donnie Propa dropped another quality EP  in 2013 that was packed with speaker-busting beats and vivid wordplay, providing further proof that Heavy Links are one of the most promising crews currently making music in the British scene. Heavyweight champs, indeed.

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John Robinson & Kyo Itachi – “The Path Of Mastery” (Shinigamie Records) – Making his name in the 90s as a member of NYC’s Scienz Of Life, longstanding wordsmith John Robinson continued to prove that true talent is timeless on this collaborative album with France’s Kyo Itachi. Mixing his usual brand of lyrical positivity with Itachi’s jazz-influenced beats, Robinson proved, once again, that the creative path he’s on is the correct one.

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Ryan Proctor

Check Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.

New Joint – Heavy Links / Cappo

Heavy Links ft. Cappo – “Nuclear” (HeavyLinks.BandCamp.Com / 2013)

Rugged boom-bap banger from the UK crew’s new EP “Heavyweight” which is available as both a free download and limited edition vinyl release.

52 Best Albums & EPs Of 2012 (Part Three) – Apollo Brown & Guilty Simpson / M9 / Showbiz & AG etc.

Apollo Brown & Guilty Simpson – “Dice Game” (Mello Music Group) – This Motown duo definitely weren’t taking a gamble when they jumped in the studio together to record this sureshot collection of rugged bangers. With Simpson injecting his rhymes with a slightly more personal feel than on previous material, Brown ensured his beats matched the tone of the Detroit emcee’s verses perfectly, whether highlighting their hometown (“Reputation”) or pondering the future (“How Will I Go”).

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Grand Papa Tra – “Lost In New York” (GrandPapaTra.BandCamp.Com) – Not one for adhering to today’s digital norm of emailing tracks and verses back and forth to complete a project, Swiss producer Tra wanted a more authentic recording experience, so made the trip to NYC to put together this collection of East Coast-influenced cuts with the likes of Sadat X, Mic Geronimo and Royal Flush.

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Prose – “Back In The Habit” (Boom Bap Professionals) – Following-up two impressive albums, “Force Of Habit” (2010) and “The Dark Side Of The Boom” (2011), UK emcee / producer partnership Efeks and Steady Rock remained true to their underground roots on this quality EP which featured the witty old-school tribute “The Class Of ’94”.

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Fraction & Fresh Kils – “Extra Science” (Math Music Productions) – This album could easily never have happened considering it was a chance encounter at a Toronto Hip-Hop event that led to this Canadian duo teaming-up for this release. Thankfully, the rap gods were obviously smiling on that fateful day, which in turn led to underground fans being blessed with an accomplished, polished display of musical brilliance steeped in soulful, jazzy vibes and masterful lyricism.

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Union – “Analogtronics” (Fat Beats) – A mind-bending mix of 80s-style synths, Dilla-influenced beats and space-age imagery, Paris-based producers OJ and Gold delivered a truly unique sonic experience with this collection of intergalactic funk, taking listeners on an epic musical journey amongst the stars with the likes of Talib Kweli, MF Doom and Roc Marciano on-hand to lyrically moonwalk across their sci-fly soundscapes.

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Casual & J Rawls – “Respect Game Or Expect Flames” (Nature Sounds) – An unexpected but welcome collaboration, the cocky, Oakland drawl of Hiero’s Casual was the perfect fit for veteran Ohio-based producer Rawls’ well-crafted beats on this thoroughly entertaining album.

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M9 – “Magna Carta” (M9Ether.BandCamp.Com) – Easily one of the most gifted lyricists in the present-day rap game, London’s Melanin 9 filled his heavily-anticpated “Magna Carta” project with intricately woven verses packed with gritty street knowledge, political opinion and social commentary. Edutainment, indeed.

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Gensu Dean – “Lo-Fi Fingahz” (Mello Music Group) – Texas-based producer Dean celebrated his love of his trusty SP 1200 sampler by using it to craft a quality selection of true-school neck-snappers on this album which featured the likes of Brand Nubian, Large Professor and Count Bass D.

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Heavy Links – “The Essence” (HeavyLinks.BandCamp.Com) – Midlands, UK trio Habitat, El Tel and Donnie Propa released their third EP project which, following a successful appearance at September’s Boom Bap Hip-Hop Festival, raised the crew’s profile and widened the audience for their brand of good ol’ fashioned homegrown rap.

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Showbiz & AG – “Mugshot Music: Preloaded” (DITC Records) – Released as a free warm-up for “Mugshot Music” proper, this might not have been considered an official album by the Bronx duo, but it was definitely much more than just a mixtape. Featuring some of Show’s best production in recent times and typically self-assured bars from Andre The Giant, “Preloaded” probably wouldn’t have left fans unsatisfied even if it had been the pair’s only 2012 release.

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Ryan Proctor

Part Four coming soon – check Part One and Part Two.

Boom Bap Festival Mixtape Download – Donnie Propa

As the countdown continues to next weekend’s UK Hip-Hop Boom Bap Festival in Peterborough, Heavy Links member Donnie Propa has put together an official mixtape for the event featuring tracks from the likes of Phi Life Cypher, Mystro, Kyza and more – check it here.