Released under the auspices of indie label High Focus Records, Leaf Dog’s much anticipated debut solo album release ‘From A Scarecrow’s Perspective’ represents the 10 year culmination of an artist’s unrequited devotion to the art of hip-hop. An emcee and beatmaker, Leaf Dog is something of an underground hero; a proponent of sample-heavy beatmaking techniques, punchline-heavy lyricism and with a style steeped in swagger juice, his key strength is in keeping his brand of hip-hop within old-school parameters whilst allowing himself just the right amount of latitude to be unique.
Bar a couple of tracks, his debut album has been produced, mixed, mastered and recorded entirely by Brighton-honed producer and The Three Amigos cohort Naive, who brings his canny selection of vinyl records and boom-bap production skills to the table. The major triumph of this pairing production-wise, is that it’s flamboyant and colourful while still managing to sound low-key enough to cede to the spotlight of the artist himself. Indeed, Naive’s production provides an ideal soundbed for Leaf Dog to lace his substance filled bars, wherein he weaves some intricate and charming rhyme patterns, as well as his own unabashed — some might say, eccentric — ruminations on everyday life. His scratchy, lived-in voice and air of slacker-cool belie some deft, well-crafted lyricism that discerning hip-hop ears will no doubt be highly attuned to; indeed, this is a key factor to which Leaf Dog can attribute much of his underground success thus far.
The album is carried by the artist’s blasé demeanour as much as his careful punchline construction and internal rhyme aggressiveness; a combination that epitomises the artist’s individualist aesthetic. The CD commences with the stand-out single titled ‘Some People Say’, which ebbs and flows nicely with the logy, loping singsong of its hook as a stylistic counterpoint to the intricacies of Leaf’s verses. Likewise, his wordplay is smart, but remains playful:“Two wrongs don’t make a right, but two bongs make me feel alright.” Musically, the fine blending of layered vocals and soft melodies with a diverse collection of soulfully crafted beats and boom-bap rhythms set a standard which, for the most part, is kept consistent throughout the album’s 16 tracks. For the sake of levity, Naive does occasionally put a dip in the boom-bap, such as in ‘Sweet Thing’, so as to accommodate some slower tempos, more syncopated rhythms and, in the case of this track, to emphasise a light-hearted, playful theme about girls and carousing. In contrast, ‘Time And A Place’ conveys an edgier, minimalist vibe complete with its natty Japanese string sample, on which UK hip-hop veteran Verb T (also on the High Focus roster) features, and where both emcees impart a wealth of lyrical introspection with creative similes abound: “untainted like the mind of an infant.” Other high-profile features on the album include High Focus frontman Fliptrix and long-time Busta Rhymes collaborator Rampage, all adding to the album’s finesse, variety and hip-hop credentials.
In essence, ‘From A Scarecrow’s Perspective’ achieves a balance of style and substance and codifies the essence of traditional UK underground hip-hop in its modern-day form. Unencumbered by a need to conform to the dominions of popular taste, Leaf Dog AKA Lord Balrog AKA L.Doctor takes a rap vintage style and flips it into the present day with the consummate skill and poise of an OG. Traveling with a nonchalant and bedraggled swagger – but instantly charming with it – Leaf Dog simultaneously conveys droll, slightly self-mocking comedic sensibilities while remaining an altogether shrewd and intelligent practitioner of the art form. With 16 tracks, perhaps the album would have been better served as a shorter offering with the omission of a couple of filler numbers; nonetheless it’s a tight, cohesive package and without doubt a compulsory purchase for any UK hip-hop adherent.
‘From A Scarecrow’s Perspective’ will be available from 13th June. Pre-order now from http://www.high-focus.com
Official video for the single ‘Some People Say’: