Who said UK hip hop was dead? Just look to the skies.
On Wednesday 6th of February UK hip hop collective The Four Owls descended upon the intimate gig space of Exeter Cavern, armed to the teeth with beats, mics and bars to spit. Brought down for the first time this side of Bristol by the Exeter University’s Beats and Bass Society for a one off showcase of the lyrical genius and incredible energy that the High Focus label has become synonymous with.
The Four Owls are one of the most exciting new collectives to grace the UK hip-hop scene in recent years. And thank god they did. Led by ‘Big Owl’ (Fliptrix), founder of the highly respected label, High Focus, he alone can lay claim to being one of the key players in the re-birth of a scene that lost its way ever so slightly. Alongside, ‘Bird T’ (Verb T), ‘Rusty Take-Off’ (BVA MC) & the inspired ‘Deformed Wing’ (Leaf Dog), each of which are established UK legends in their own right, The Four Owls are proving themselves a fundamental force in underground UK hip hop. Behind the mics, the production side of the group is handled entirely by Leaf Dog, who has already racked up a hugely impressive list of collaborations since he turned his talons to beat making three years ago, including Rass Kass, Kool G Rap, Vinne Paz, KRS and U-God to name a few.
Swaying in the crowd at The Cavern, the atmosphere was electric, as they dropped tune after tune from The crowd was heaving and jumping to every beat that they spat on. their head bopping album ‘Nature’s Greatest Mystery’. The four onstage lyricists greeted us at first donning their wing-tipped masks and snapbacks. Soon though, as the set list deviated into some of their solo works, strongly featuring Fliptrix, some Verb T, and memorably Walk With Me by Leaf Dog, they left their masks behind. The venue was perfect for the event, the brick-walled club only just large enough to contain the crowd that was heaving and jumping to every beat that they spat on, and was exactly how you wanted to experience this lively hip hop team.
Staying true to their nocturnal nature, the wing-masked emcees were still playing long after their time was up, and with Fliptrix’s third studio album ‘The Road To The Interdimensional Piff Highway’ having just dropped and The Four Owls fluffing their feathers for a new release we were blessed with some hot world exclusives as the night drew to a close. Finally, it would be impossible to finish this review without giving a big props to DJ Fingerfood. Spinning on vinyl, he ran the beats on the decks behind every tune dropped. Altogether, a huge night with some of the sickest rhymers in the industry. The Four Owls maintain a sound that is true to hip-hop in its real form.
If the next release is anything like the last, then we can only expect big things from this far-past fledgling crack-group of lyricists. It’s only February, but 2013 is already the year of the owls.
REVIEW BY CIARAN O’CONNELL