OK, so we know there’s probably only one thing on your mind right now. When you’re not stockpiling enough toilet rolls to see a small country through a week of bad curries, you’re frantically washing your hands while singing happy birthday like some kind of deranged killer clown. But that shouldn’t stop you enjoying the latest hip hop releases, and the last month has seen some absolute belters. 

Case in point; Al English – AKA Dweller. The Bolton rapper dropped his latest LP Record of Achievement back in February, and with all the craziness, it nearly flew under our radar. Now on full-time rap duties after years balancing music, family and a full time job, Dweller has crafted a fine piece of hip hop nostalgia – and who isn’t nostalgic right now?

His first taste of the spotlight came from gigging in bands when he was 14, but since then he’s starred in the 2017 documentary ‘Rock, Raves & Rap Music‘, and hosted a bi-weekly tribute to all things hip hop on 96.5 Bolton FM (not to mention a tasty collab with Scorzayzee).

So it’s safe to say the Bolton native has been circling the scene for some time. His commitment to classic hip hop (he dropped an EP called, appropriately, ‘The Boom Bap Time Machine’ back in 2018) shines even brighter here. Drawing equal inspiration from dusty old school beats and his northern upbringing, it’s no surprise R.o.A sounds like a cross between South Central LA and a Ken Loach film. 

Opener ‘Ave It’ sets the tone, acid bars spat against a backdrop of symphonic string loops. ‘Rats’ switches up the flow and gives Dweller some room to flash his lyricism. Reminiscent of fellow Manc Black Josh, Dweller’s bars flow like the River Irwell, veering between a torrent and a trickle in the space of just a few tracks. His unashamedly honest account of growing up in Greater Manchester is twisted with a wry humour, lending Record of Achievement a very British authenticity.

With production from Professor P, Jonny Capicola, and the Taskmastar, there’s far more than just backpack beats to R.o.A. Chopped up samples add to the backpack vibes. The hazy jazz-infused instrumentals of ‘World On My Shoulders’ could be a B-Side from an Ill-Informed instrumental. The bassy thump of ‘Smoke Rings’ meanwhile, takes unmistakable cues from his time as one half of hip hop house duo MojoFluxx

Two years in the making, R.o.A is a whip smart homage to working class northern England while tipping a sizable hat to the original masters. If you’re looking for a break from the 24/7 shit-show that is the world, you could do a lot worse than diving into Record of Achievement.

Record of Achievement is out now.