What is it about Britain? It seems like this country operates on two separate planes at all times. There’s the obscene wealth of the city bankers, the celebrities and media types. But then, on the other hand you can find deprivation, poverty and all the things wrapped up in that. Thankfully, for every banker there’s someone trying to make their own unique mark on the culture. Three guys that have been cutting their own path through the concrete jungle for years now are Leaf Dog, BVA, and Leaf Dog’s younger brother Illinformed representing the South-West with zeal. Brothers of the Stone sees them join forces to give Britain a real reason to smile (rather than the collective national cooing over a fucking Royal baby), as well as lay down some of the finest beats to this side of the pond.
Maybe it’s just that I’m a sucker for quality soul samples, but Brothers of the Stone deliver a fully formed piece of contemporary class. The High Focus crew have been carving out an admirable niche in UK Hip Hop for several years now, and their lyrical wizardry is rightly an established staple of the High Focus sound. But their skills in crafting an original melody from obscure soul and jazz songs. The clash of old and new fits their pioneering take on an old sound perfectly, much like Rodney P and the reggae-fueled socially conscious hip-hop of Riddim Killa and Live Up.
Fellow High Focus contemporary Fliptrix joins the three for the albums best sample track Burning My Soul, but by far Brothers of the Stone’s best choice of guest is New York legend KRS One. The cross Atlantic blend fits the up tempo feel good instrumental of Futures down to a tee, while the beat keeps it bouncing around your brain hours after it’s finished. Not that this is unique to Futures, the album is driven by the beats. Tunes like Take Control and Meditation, featuring Jedi Mind Tricks’ own Vinnie Paz, have such an impact because they’re layered over the slick beats of Illinformed.
Lyrically they are on top form, keeping their tongue firmly in cheek for the most part without ever straying too far into ‘preaching’ territory. That doesn’t mean they don’t have some real messages, but who wouldn’t enjoy a metaphor as ridiculous as “Life’s a pussy, you just eat it, then you beat it and you cheat it”.
You could argue that it’s merely an extension of Leaf Dog and BVA’s earlier trio Three Amigos with Naive, but this time around they have a sharper bite to match their already impressive bark. They make a great trio, and fucking great hip-hop. MC’s Leaf Dog and BVA bounce bars of razor sharp wit and typical British humour off Illinformed’s exceptional collection of beats. What really makes the record stand above others is it’s unrelenting pace, delivering line after line of concise lyrical dexterity. As always the two emcees exhale bars with an inimitable style, BVA delivers a razor sharp vitriolic performance, spitting disgust at everything from haters to pushers.
So Brothers of The Stone isn’t just your ordinary hip-hop, it’s bursting with an intelligence and passion that you sadly won’t find in many other recording studios in Britain. Leaf Dog, BVA and Illinformed might not have the verbal one-two of other trios but their vocabulary and wit more than compensate. There’ll always be some that say their lack of bravado hides a vulnerable side to the three-piece, but why does that have to be a bad thing? The boys have each cut their own path through the UK hip-hop scene and stand proud as a result. Not that it’s likely the three will pay much heed to the haters; in the words of Leaf Dog himself, “take your best shot, you won’t break me”.
Check out the video to stellar track They See You, taken from the album.