Unseen & Deeflux – 1984 (Album Review)

Cover art by Deus.

Producer and scratch DJ, Louis Unseen hailing from the South West pairs up with Deeflux, an emcee based of Farnborough, Hampshire for a new 12-track project titled 1984, an album not explicitly based on the Orwellian prophecy, but so-named because both artists (and the cover designer) were born on said date.

Based on their creative nous and talent, the duo, who despite remaining perpetual underdogs in the scene, prove themselves worthy of wider-acclaim than most self-aggrandizing, image-obsessed hip-hop artists out there. Not just an emcee, but also a hip-hop producer for 103.7 KaneFM and a linchpin of Holdin’ Court, a popular hip-hop night based in the South East, Deeflux is a fiercely earnest contributor to the culture and art form. Hard-working and infinitely amiable, he humbly personifies the UK hip-hop enthusiast as earthy, analog, unpretentious but also verbally sharp with razor-sharp a wit and an acute understanding of hip-hop fundamentals. Thanks to Unseen, the production on 1984 provides near perfect counterpoints to Deeflux’s honest brand of lyricism; indeed there’s a genuine telepathic harmony between producer and emcee at work here.

Replete with a plethora of samples from a variety of genres spanning reggae, jazz, pop and classic rock, the album also displays a sonic flair often rare among hip-hop artists whose sampling can often be ill-advised and choppy at best. Cognizant of cross-genre musical sensibilities, Unseen is a rare talent, and even with his exuberant genre-melding, he and Deeflux have put together a superbly cohesive collection of tracks; indeed, it sounds as though each track has been crafted into its own theme and narrative.

The mid-tempo, boom-to-the-bap rap aesthetic though rhythmically conservative, is fleshed out enough with neatly comped lyrics and organic real-life themes to lend it immediate warmth and approachability.The subtle variations in song structure and phrasing are simple but effective, and the album’s anthemic hooks are expertly crafted and a real stand-out feature.

The impressive hooks really elevate the level of tracks such as ‘Come Again‘, whose choruses are arched by a beautiful loping singsong, enhancing the sanguine and unconvoluted messages about seizing the day and making the most of life. ‘Freaks United‘, a track spun by a wistful minor-chord guitar loop and multilayered vocal hooks, is a wonderfully poignant ode to society’s misfits: from a nihilistic, feckless tramp to a young girl trapped by her insecurities that are exacerbated by societal expectations. Staying true to the Millenium Jazz imprint, ‘Steam‘ with its minimal jazz piano has a similarly melancholic, contemplative feel, enhanced by some wonderfully evocative imagery about the dusty jazz bar in which the narrator sits; from the lingering “tobacco and ale stains” to the deafening “sound of a lonely fly’s wings.

As a stylistic counterpoint to the more soulful numbers is the edgy, reverb-heavy ‘Cyanide’, a collaboration track featuring some seriously badass cuts by Jabba the Kut. Featuring Genesis Elijah, Millenium Jazz cohort Gadget, and UK hip-hop veteran Dr Syntax, it carries with it some real lyrical clout, with each emcees displaying on-point solid flows amid the ethereal and dark electronic textures.

Overall, 1984 is a welcome indication that, with two creative heads at the helm, underground independent UK hip-hop can go a long way towards being both understated and professional. It’s a compulsively listenable, fully immersive 12-track album made by UK hip-hop artists who ply their trade properly. Support the scene and cop this album.

Download 1984 from Deeflux’s Bandcamp Page

Or, buy a physical copy from Suspect Packages

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