360 Physicals release their highly anticipated debut album ‘Style Crown‘ (25 years after they were first established) on Noel & Poland Records, the 13 track release is entirely produced by Hong Kong based Kong The Artisan “modern day Michelangelo” (who was an original member of 360 Physicals and part of UK Team DMC Champions – Flaredycats). This piece of work includes other current members (from an original 10 member crew formed from across the UK’s South East), artists like ukhh stalwart Koaste, a veteran who has been a staple on the Brighton scene for many years, international award-winning beatboxer and vocalist Killa Kela (Rocksteady, Scratch Perverts), a reggae-influenced Jonny Virgo and recent addition Cristo Cannes, whose pop-culture laden street knowledge completes the lineup. The collective has changed over the years but started as “a group of people from around the country that loved everything Hip Hop, who’d get together to crate dig in record shops, check out graffiti spots, make freestyle tapes and it felt right to have a name to represent under”. Outside of freestyle mixtapes the collective existed solely in the ‘live’ space, performing initially at DJ Yoda’s ‘Spread Love’ night in Soho, then other nights like ‘Magnatraction’ at Brixton Mass, Mudlumz, ‘Dusk 2 Dawn’ at Brighton Racecourse, “we’d often be at other jams, whether that was London or Reading, starting up freestyle ciphers outside, or jumping on open mics. We rolled deep to Fresh ’98 at Stratford Rex and started one of the wildest freestyle circles outside where we just took on all comers, that felt legendary”. Videos for the first few singles are available now on the Kelavision platform, you can also watch the video for ‘Flowers’ below. Style Crown was built out of this long standing friendship that started in the late 90’s, they have all released solo material over the years but when questioned why they waited so long to release a collaborative piece of work together they replied..
“Life got in the way – back in those days there was no social media, we all lived in random spots around the country (Koaste in Brighton, Virgo in Reading and Kela was near Crawley) and we didn’t have access to the equipment needed to record tracks like we do these days. Everything we did was pretty spontaneous, from the regular freestyle ciphers outside of clubs to the live shows we did”.
This super crew in it’s current state agreed that they had ‘unfinished business which needed taking care of’, so got to work in fashioning a Crown…. but was it worthy of a King (or a Queen)… we had a listen..
The album opens with a nice synthwavey piece of production, words and group recollections of times spent together help to establish their various personalities, they then hearken back to the legendary Fresh ’98 queue battle, making reference to ‘the craft, the essence’ of real Hip Hop and how ‘they are coming to take the Crown back’, quite the braggadocious entrance. This leads straight into the titular ‘Style Crown’ which sees Killa Kela rapping for the first time on an official release, “Kela always had skills on the mic, and would regularly jump in ciphers. This is just the first time we’ve actually got him to put down some serious bars, and I think its been worth the wait” says Koaste. Kela does call attention to this fact early on in the album ‘I aint even a rapper’, however this doesn’t stop him from delivering some noteworthy bars. Solid snappy drums, electro keys and silky cuts fit around the fiery verses on this opening track, nice introduction to what feels like a very raw piece of Hip Hop. ‘Facts’ has a rich sound quality that mixes well with nice vocal samples that progressivley build, adorned with lyrics like “Wish I could bring Pun back, bring Ty back, bring Iris back, life’s too short and that’s the final fact”, paying tribute to some of the musical talents (and friendships) we have lost over the past couple of decades.
This sentiment is carried across onto single ‘Flowers’ (video above), a standout on the release, with a revved up chainsaw-like sample throughout the track, this song acts as a vehicle for paying respect to the “purveyors, pioneers and OG’s” of the scene, calling out a long list of unsung heroes; Mark B, Stevie Hyper D, Blade, 279 to name but a few, honouring those who built the foundations but then paying it forward, not holding onto the past but embracing a future vision of the music. Great pacing on this one, with Virgo and Cristo both putting down a great verse, the video only emphasizes how good of a track this is. ‘So Cold’, ‘Summertime‘ (which has a great video) and ‘Things You Do’ all have more of a commercial feel, which is not an issue but they definitley feel different against the rest of the albums rawness. ‘All On Top’ is Kela’s ‘sophisticated love song’ and is reminiscent to some of the work on his previous release “Elocution“, a complete tonal shift but it is not unwelcome.
“I done my time got my battle scars/ f*ck your meta do it better with no avatars/ cover the panorama/ with bars of a calibre/ alarm, disarm and embalm ya piranha your man-at-arms”Koaste going gung-ho on DYKWYFW
‘Day by Day’, is a melancholic outing with thoughtful vocal sample, includes a great hook sung by Virgo, some gentle harpsichord which is finished off with cutwork by Kong, great stuff. ‘DYKWYFW‘ is the longest acronym song title since ‘LGBNAF’, a puncy entry where we are treated to lyrics like “it’s hasta la juego, sit down and shut your cake hole”, Cristo drops various nostalgic references whilst eating the scenery; Prince Naseem Hamed, Razor Ramon, GoT and a hilarious ‘Uber Escape’ story (which is not featured in the video), a provocative, riotous effort. ‘Rainfalls’ has some spacey uplifting beatwork and impressive vocals and ‘Basquiat’ is an homage to Jean-Michael Basquiat (an American artist who rose to success during the 1980s as part of the Neo-expressionism movement) and graffiti/street culture in general “get your cans in the air”, good to see more songs dedicated to this topic.
After a long…. long hiatus (a quarter of a century to be exact) the debut of 360 Physicals is finally here and it’s a mixed bag for sure. This is an album made by cipherers, street rappers who cut their teeth in a time when real Hip Hop was king, there is a true rawness that captures a certain level of lightning in a bottle-badassery, with some commercial flavour sprinkled in for good measure, this part may not be to everyone’s taste, however there are some great ideas here and they are not scared to take some risks, trying to appeal to a broader audience. Nice hooks, well thought out compositions and production, fiery verses that deserve attention, a refreshing take on a tried and tested method. With roots deep in 90’s boom bap culture but with enough current sounds and styles to make it a relevant listen today, this debut is more than a mere dalliance, hopefully this will be the first of many releases from the troop, only time will tell.
‘Style Crown’ is out on the 13th October 2022 on all digital channels, streaming, limited edition; cassette and double vinyl, there are also some signed test presses up for grabs, as well as Japanese/Chinese and English OBI strip variants, some great collectibles available so get yours now.
As always this is just my opinion, what did you think of ‘Style Crown’, Tweet me your thoughts.
Words by Theo Specone
Additional photography credit for article header: Normski