By Harvey Williams-Fairley
On Monday the 1st of October enigmatic rapper Dabbla dropped his new album ‘Death Moves’, which is a phenomenal concoction of hip-hop, trap, grime and boom-bap – and is perfectly named; ‘hybrid rap’. The album even gives an appreciative nod to other genres including world music, funk and jazz. The album is a refreshing release from the UK hip-hop scene; with cleverly written lyrics and phrases that supply catchy hooks and bass driven tunes that will rock your brain around your skull. Each of the 17 tracks on the album, all of them are seriously strong, uniquely composed, and stand far apart from one another.
Dabbla first made his musical appearance in the DNB scene in the mid 90’s and has since been growing from strength to strength as an artist. With a clear focus on producing rap and with over 22 years in the game, Dabbla has reached a seriously impressive position in the UK underground scene. In the early-00’s Dabbla was based in Manchester and running with the LDZ crew, who reached great success within the grime scene. Since then, Dabbla has also formed two more crews. Dead Players with fellow rapper Jam Baxter and producer GhostTown, who release on High Focus Records, and Problem Child with Sumgii, Dubbledge and Illaman who release music on Potent Funk (of which Dabbla is a co-founder).
Dabbla is a rapper that constantly challenges his art and seemingly leaps to new heights with each his productions, it is almost as though he rewrites the rules for rap with each release. ‘Death Moves’ is a mind-boggling monologue of naughty stories punched violently over splendid productions. In 2016, when Dabbla released his first and long-awaited solo album ‘Year of the Monkey’, it took fans by storm. The album achieved a well-deserved accolade for a project composed of over 10 years of hard work. Two years later, after a lot of hype and teasing of his fans, Dabbla has finally unveiled his second solo collection of works, featuring an array of big names and talent.
The Potent Funk posse, members of the High Focus Records clan and the Problem Child motley crew, names such as Pete Cannon, Dirty Dike, Sumgaii, Dag Nabbit, Purist and Don Pipe have all contributed their talents to the bubbling cauldron of creativity. Usually, with a list of creative genius as extensive as this, cooking up a batch of beats poses the threat of ‘too many cooks’, however, the recipe for ‘Death Moves’ has been executed with sublime finesse. If only I could bang a Michelin star on this album.
Listen to ‘Death Moves’ here:
Featuring on the album is the decrepit voice and dark mind of Jam Baxter who premieres on ‘Long Gone’. Baxter is Dabbla’s frequent partner in rhyme and co-founder of rap outfit Dead Players. We also hear the big boy baritone voice of Rag’N’Bone Man belting out some sexy melodies on ‘Tweeters’. Illaman spits some seriously naughty bars on ‘Summin Like’. Eva Lazarus brings a raspy feminine touch to the chaotic ‘Flex’, whilst the boys from LDZ sprinkle their darkness all over the tune. As a listener, we have truly been spoilt by the talent that has contributed to the birth of this album.
My most favoured aspects of this album are the direct references to martial arts and asian culture. Dabbla absolutely loves kung fu, this is more than apparent if you have had interactions with either the album artwork or music video for ‘Death Moves’, which has been brilliantly executed by Obese Aesthetics. But these references also run deeper than the visual aspects of the album, and you have to really listen to the music to appreciate these hidden gems. ‘Flying’, the first tune on the album, has a certain swagger in the beat that reminds me of Tarantino’s Kill Bill. I also love how Dabbla has been so shamelessly honest within his lyrics, referencing personal aspects of himself that wouldn’t be openly discussed in most rap music. Rappers tend to flex more than they open up, but of course, Dabbla does this with pure comedic effect.
If you haven’t yet listened to this album, or if you’re new to rap music or you have merely stumbled upon this article, I implore you to listen to ‘Death Moves’ immediately. It is a work of pure musical genius.