Razyel first came to my attention back in 2009 when he set up Steel City Cipher Sessions – a platform for Sheffield hip-hop and grime emcees to participate in cyphers, spit fire in front of the camera and to collide with lyrical fury in rap battles. Although the setup was slightly banal and makeshift, I admired the willingness and enterprise of the young emcee to make an impact in the UK hip-hop community. Indeed the true essence of Rayzel is all about grit and perseverance. By years of tireless songwriting and recording, he has garnered himself a name that holds substantial weight in the underground UK scene – further boosting his pulling power by his affiliation to transatlantic indie label Pig Latin Productions, an outfit run by Guilty Smiles, a producer/emcee out of Arizona, which specializes in horrorcore spinoff genre, “Grave Rap”.
In keeping with the label’s aesthetic, Rayzel’s own sound is unequivocally hardcore: with freighted bursts of lyricism set to an array of sample-heavy instrumentals comprising a wide range of sounds which evoke everything from spine-chilling horror films to meditative acoustic refrains reminiscent of classic rock. His new mixtape Product of Circumstance Vol.1 is a hefty collection of such sounds, featuring Necro-esque horrocore production from French labelmate Nizuk and longtime beatmaker collaborator, Faceraper out of the Welsh valleys who is typically heavy on expansive and epic film scores.
Before even listening to his new mixtape, you know it’s going to be weighty – and with names like Diabolic, Copywrite and Sean Strange on the cards, you know this mixtape isn’t one to be taken lightly. The choice of such punchline emcees who, with their explicit verbal jabs, aggressive deliveries and tricky wordplay enhances Rayzel’s own style which, no doubt honed by battling, is rough and uncompromising but also counterbalanced by honest personal grievances, such as those of the injustices and inadequacies of everyday life.
Lyrically, all the emcees featured add reasons to hear them out and are typically heavy on overstatement, occasionally perhaps over-announcing their presence on tracks at times. The mixtape’s sound is atmospheric, with joints like Pigz Pen inflected with creepy, crawling signifiers and sprawling bassed-out vocal sustains, and Lamentations, a standout track spun by a haunting and wistful Medieval string sample. Aside from the forceful production, one thing that really that brings bucket-loads of grandeur and quality to this release is Rayzel’s natural ability to crescendo, to pause and to emphasize and to know where exactly to add musical cadence to make his songs sound bigger and more epic. By doing so, he proves himself to be a very able recording artist (which let’s be honest, is hardly the metier of most battle emcees).
Nonetheless, I can’t help but feel that the Pig Latin imprint stifles his creativity a little, as he could benefit from greater creative freedom and stylistic variation in some of his songs. Also, with 23 tracks it’s a deep catalogue, presumably spanning various chronologies, so I feel he could do with sweeping away the vestiges of some weaker joints like Life of Frank (a slightly dreary and excessive narrative of the tragic-stricken life of a Polish immigrant in the UK) by simply omitting them as they weigh down the mixtape a little and drown out some of the excellent songs like Sick and Tired, My Blood is Wine and Lamentations. Bearing in mind it’s a free mixtape though, I appreciate the sheer volume of tracks to get your teeth into.
Though he was no slouch as a battler, it’s clear that Rayzel is much more assured and inventive as a recording artist, and if Product of Circumstances Vol.1 serves merely as an exhibition of his talents, it’s safe to say I’m pretty stoked about his upcoming album.
Download Product of Circumstance Vol. 1 for FREE here.