DJ Premier jumping on a track with the Four Owls was undoubtedly the news of the year in the hip hop community. As soon as the collaboration was revealed the already bubbling hype surrounding Natural Order exploded. An already talked about second album was fast becoming the pinnacle release of 2015. But more than having a celebrity producer lay down fire on a track there were many questions left unanswered: who else was on the producing duties? Would it top the masterpiece that preceded this? Most importantly how much has changed since 2011?
Natures Greatest Mystery was a debut worthy of all the critical acclaim it received. For its time in years there was an album that broke the mold and paved a way for a brand new style of artistry. It was groundbreaking way back then, but in 2015 the Owl’s second installment Natural Order is set to do so much more than just surprise fans of the genre.
One thing to take away from the album is the tremendous presence of unity engrained in the music. Initially the public unknowingly viewed the Owls as four artists who simply worked well together. This time, as Premo said it best, they’re here as four brothers. Which makes sense that Leaf took the reigns on the entirety of the album (bar Think Twice), exhibiting a vast display of technical genius throughout.
The Four Owls – Think Twice Prod. DJ Premier
Stepping aside from the production the album is teeming with expression and originality. Feels Great is an early example of this; ‘We show love to the fans who support us/as we travel across borders/it feels great when you recognize what’s important’. Verb T opens with a positive, humbling take on their international success, while remaining completely genuine about the love of their music and the people who support them.
Towards the end of the album another classic is born, Old Earth is a soulful throwback to the 70s blended with Leaf’s talent for unearthing gloriously obscure samples. The verses on Old Earth showcase a more pensive approach, displaying glimmers of sincerity about their own personal struggles. Old Earth possesses exactly what made Natures Greatest Mystery a hit; the Owl’s unrelenting openness and honesty in their music.
Notable collab effort undisputedly goes to Smellington Piff who steals the show with a heavy verse on Dawn of a New Day, followed closely by Jam Baxter who styles near flawlessly on a 90s rnb inspired beat. It would be interesting to see if the Owls had chosen artists away from the respective labels to work with but their choices hardly disappoint.
Natural Order shows a thought provoking shift in the way UK hip hop is being created, it also highlights the incredible rise of the High Focus artists in the past couple of years. It’s an album cushioned with unfaltering brilliance on the production, saturated with high quality, skillful lyricism. Not only living up to the imprint Natures Greatest Mystery left but soaring enormously above it.
Review by Louise Brisbane