With his High Focus imprint now deeply embedded in the UK hip-hop scene, indie label boss Fliptrix is one of the few artists successfully carrying the patina of UK hip-hop’s golden-age while continuing to break new ground stylistically. Much like his forbears Jehst and Task Force, the South Londoner thrives with his versatility of expression and seamless ability to imbue real world scenarios with rarefied abstraction.
In the vein of his previous two albums, his aptly named ‘Third Eye of the Storm’ adheres to an uncompromising formula of dense metaphysical lyricism set to a polished score of boom-bap laced instrumentals. 16 tracks deep, the album proves not only his unyielding love for the art form but also what a productive powerhouse he is. In fact, in terms of pure entrepreneurship, there probably isn’t a single UK hip-hop artist out there working as diligently as the top-flight indie label boss right now.
Aside from the exceptional level of craft in this album, what really sets it apart from anything in the same category is its visionary intensity and focus, bolstered by a stirring soundbed provided by the likes of Chemo, Jon Phonics and Leaf Dog in addition to up-and-comers such as Kontigo and Extrateless. The latter aces a beautifully layered harmony over which guest Farma G laces his trademark cosmic metaphors, while Chemo leavens the ubiquitous stomping drum beats with some dub and reggae-infused double-time in ‘Walk This Way’. Liverpool-based Reklews imparts an old-school flavour with a haunting minor key piano loop in ‘It’s No Lie’, while 184 infuses a loping violin riff into the meditative ‘Mind Traveling’.
With inter-weaving lyrics playing off against a wide array of studio-wrought beats, the creative output on this album is immense. Armed with a cache of verbal ammunition, Fliptrix’s lyrics flow so naturally and so abundantly that each song boasts a narrative thrust comparable to that of a science-fiction novella. Whether he’s painting gritty urban vignettes suffused in monochrome, waxing quixotic about utopian paradises or disclosing more lucid confessions of personal angst or tribulation, his descriptive depth never fails to incline the listener’s mind to higher things.
Further emphasising his strength in self-expression, Fliptrix aligns himself only to a close-nit assemblage of artists. Established acts like Verb T and Jehst are carefully chosen to match the creative vision and stylistic slant of each track, and this proves to be a real masterstroke. Of course, it would have been easy for him to assemble an all-star cast of UK hip-hop’s elite, but by cherry-picking a handful of rappers (only six in total), he has boosted the album’s overall conceptual scope no end. The real collaborative triumph on this album has to be ‘Frontline Terror’ featuring Ransom Badbonez and Jam Baxter which displays a near-perfect synergy between all three emcees.
Thematically, the album is philosophical and sometimes politically charged, but also introspective and complex enough to keep the listener’s mind in fifth gear. Far from the weed-addled, directionless or meta-explorations of many underground artists, ‘Third Eye’ makes for an immersive listening experience with its myriad nuances that evolve throughout his ever-expanding consciousness and post-apocolyptic vision of the world. To match this, his delivery is dextrous and on-point ensuring you’re left feeling the full cerebral force of his words, while the meticulousness of Chemo’s mastering and adlib placement ensures robust production values carry through the raw energy of his distinctive voice and prosody.
‘Third Eye of the Storm’ succeeds both in style and substance. With its expansive conceptual scope and homegrown underground sensibilities, Fliptrix has honed in and expanded on what has made him and his High Focus imprint so successful. In the process, he has achieved his most accomplished work to date and one that further cements why he deserves to be mentioned among UK hip-hop’s greats.