High Focus Records have made a habit of releasing very polished bodies of music at regular intervals and the trend is continuing with the release of BVA‘s Be Very Aware. The album drops on 14th February and features the likes of Kashmere, Fliptrix, Verb T and Dirty Dike. BVA, to give you a bit of background, makes up a quarter of The Four Owls and a third of Brothers Of The Stone with this being his first solo album. Instantly recognisable by his delivery, BVA (sometimes pronounced beaver) comes across as rather coarse both on stage and on studio recordings but this is no bad thing and makes his voice a signature unique to him.
Production duties on Be Very Aware are handled by Illinformed and Leaf Dog and provide more than enough variety with in-house mix master DJ Sammy B-Side adding the cuts and scratches to the final recipe. Be Very Aware, despite being seventeen tracks deep is by no means a quantity over quality affair. Beats and rhymes are solid throughout and certainly meet the high standards that have become synonymous with the High Focus camp in recent years (see I Remain, Road To The Interdimensional Piff Highway, A Year In The Life Of Oscar The Slouch etc.).
“For the beaver these are idyllic days and winter’s real harshness has not yet set in. It is only a matter of time until the deep grasses become covered with snow. Here in the valley of the beavers the storm clouds gradually begin building, the bright days become supplanted and grey, and skies that are covered in snow…”
The album opens with an introduction that is basically narration audio lifted from a very well scripted documentary about the life of beavers. Rappers take note, regardless of your stage name you can’t go wrong with a wildlife documentary snippets to punctuate and structure your albums. Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of David Attenborough while listening to their favourite musician? Diving straight into a beautifully sampled Rain or Shine, BVA immediately demonstrates what he’s about… a west country MC that clearly contrasts the serenity you would associate with that part of the world. The instrumental, produced by Leaf Dog, is beautifully layered with. The most simple of drum loops is brought to life with perfectly arranged vocal samples, horns and various other unidentifiable instruments.
Hype Man mellows out, pointing out that there’s clearly too many ‘artists’ out there who lack the ability but still continue to portray an image that is clearly not a reflection of the truth. Frontin’ covers similar territory to Hype Man in terms of narrative, people acting tough but then being “smooth to the touch”. On the instrumental front, Illinformed has got his hands on some strings that bring everything together, without it the beat really wouldn’t stand out but with its addition it truly makes it memorable.
“We don’t need all the glamour and glitz, ’cause all you need is beat and somebody that spits” – BVA on This Love Is Love
This Love Is Love is one of our favourite tracks on the album. Coming straight from the heart, BVA talks about his love for music and how it can bring happiness to any situation. A song that any rap fan, or fans of any genre for that matter, can instantly connect with and conjures up memories of listening to your personal classics on a turntable. Where’s The Mic At is powerful. Powerful in every way. There is a vocal harmony on the beat the completely dominates the whole song but in a very positive way; gives it the aura of music that means business.
It’s A Mad World features head honcho at High Focus, Fliptrix, alongside Cracker Jon with DJ Sammy B-Side on the cuts. If our ears aren’t playing tricks on us it sounds like Leaf Dog has used the same (or very similar) awesome vocal sample mentioned above but completely switches it up for a different purpose. Fliptrix contributes a great verse and as per usual it is delivered effortlessly.
Gifted is our favourite track by a West Country mile (see what we did there?) featuring UK hip hop veteran Verb T and with beautiful production that instigates thoughts of summer days in the city while we endure the winter blues. This song alone, on loop, could see us through to April. A soulful saxophone is layered over the most calming of drum loops and piano keys. Catering to our vinyl loving side, the whole song has a subtle dusty vinyl crackle running over the length it. Despite mentioning coarse vocals earlier on, BVA slows up the flow and softens his tone to not only suit the chilled out beat but also Verb T’s signature tone. Both rappers come with their A-game on this one and they have to be considering they are rapping about how gifted they are as artists; listening to this leaves you in no doubt. One can’t talk about our love of this song without mentioning the hilarious introduction skit from what sounds like Edward Scissortongue playing a radio DJ called Dick Truesay and referring to Verb T as “Verb Twazzer”. No more needs to be said, great song.
On Weapon of Choice, BVA brings in Dirty Dike and Kashmere to contribute verses and if you know your UK rap music you know the high standard of lyricism they deliver each and every time. The whole vibe of this track is dark and gloomy and kind of conjures similar reactions to Ramson Badbonez‘s A Year In The Life of Oscar The Slouch. That’s where the similarities end, Weapons of Choice unexpectedly is a track about each of the rappers’ vices that help them disconnect from the misery of reality. The metaphors and imagery on this are the highlight of the particular gem. Spoiler alert! BVA loves weed, Dirty Dike loves his booze while Kashmere prefers to dabble in hallucinogens.
Be Gone Bitches is pure jazzy goodness. The Illinformed produced track really does make you feel like you’re in a jazz bar, the mellow drums and piano keys are so chilled that it doesn’t even sound like a loop as such. Crazy Trips made us feel like we were tripping out if we’re perfectly honest. That said, both BVA and Leaf Dog both paint some amazing pictures with their words on this one. As the title suggests the track focusses on the rappers’ adventures as they experience the effects of magic mushrooms. The album closes with Spit The Soulder. It’s a very good choice as a closing track and is basically a track the BVA tries to sum up who is both as a rapper and as a human being and pulls it off effortlessly. A person that’s not just black or white but has many facets and on the whole he demonstrates this across the breadth of the whole album in terms of him being an artist. If you’re familiar with his material on The Four Owls and Brothers Of The Stone projects then this won’t be groundbreaking listening for you but that’s not to take away anything from the quality of BVA’s first solo outing. The instrumentals are well-selected and BVA himself demonstrates he is a more than a capable rapper in a variety of scenarios. Definitely worth a purchase and we’re sure you’ll agree if you get the opportunity to listen to it yourself. Highlights for us were Gifted, It’s A Mad World, Be Gone Bitches and Spit The Soulder.
Be Very Aware is released on 14th February 2014 on High Focus Records. You can pre-order your copy now direct from the High Focus Store. If you prefer your music in digital format head over to iTunes and grab your copy there.