Sporting unmistakeable vocals and certified veteran status as an MC, UKHH heavyweight Ronnie Bosh finally comes to his own on his first solo release All People Expect. Title aside, expectations are high as Ronnie is the final member of trailblazing hip hop group Contact Play to pursue a solo career, following prominent characters Dirty Dike, Mr. Key, Ed Scissor and Jam Baxter.
Ronnie is clearly not a newcomer to the UK hip hop scene, though, curating an impressive cast of features on this project from renowned Bristol singer/songwriter Eva Lazarus to the first full Contact Play collaboration since 2012. Ronnie Bosh and Jam Baxter are an especially stand-out pair here, as the latter’s leathery smooth vocals compliments the former’s booming voice while, lyrically, Baxter’s more esoteric language comes across as the heaven to Bosh’s salt of the earth lyrics. The pair develop a strong rapport as Bosh lets Baxter lead the chorus on both ‘Explain’ and ‘Funghi’, a choice that really emphasises their vocal chemistry when Bosh’s deep voice takes over on the verses.
It will also come as no surprise that Dirty Dike produces some instant classics on the instrumentation, with beats like ‘Honourable Death’ carrying a minimalistic murkiness that feels pulled from the very depths of hip hop history itself. Each collaboration serves to bring out the very best in Bosh’s performance, lending themselves to a variety of moods and really contributing to a wholly complete listening experience.
Ronnie himself makes use of his best assets as his voice presides powerfully over the mix, allowing his lyricism to rise to the fore and serving as a memorable introduction to the larger than life character that more seasoned fans may already be familiar with.
Bosh is unashamedly real on lead single ‘100%’, the video for which stars him bopping around in a dressing gown while delivering lyrics that are a mix of self-aggrandisement and self-deprecation, packaged in a sort of confident ignorance that only he could pull off. In many ways this track sounds a call to charge for the rest of the project, introducing Ronnie’s captivating personality and impactful voice whilst also epitomising the brutally direct attitude that he is best known for – “So allow me to reintroduce the recluse, mind set to feed himself fumes in abuse.”
However, digging deeper reveals that there is a sobering logic behind this hard-hitting bravado. On the fourth track and namesake for the album, ‘All People Expect’, Ronnie’s lyrics come off as a jaded criticism of inauthenticity in modern society, eventually finding comfort in a resigned acceptance to an absence of greater meaning. Bosh’s nihilism here leaves little room for him to be anything but himself and, within this, his brazen attitude appears straight-talking and honest- “I am not a victim, the hard-sell I won’t bear, the future has predicted the path set for nowhere. The trick is acting heartfelt it’s so bare, if I am not afflicted I can’t help and don’t care”. This is all tied together in a truly stand-out performance, Ronnie’s vocal quivers and cracks conveying an emotional rawness that gives the listener a glimpse under the braggadocious mask that is donned elsewhere on the project.
Still, this braggadocio is nothing short of glorious on tracks like ‘You Know’ and ‘Get Out’, which see Ronnie flexing his MC skills over the sort of infectiously jazzy instrumentals that, with special thanks to Dike, High Focus thrives on. It is over production like this that Ronnie’s unique way of putting words together can fully be appreciated—both lyrically and rhythmically—not a word is misplaced as Ronnie operates on full from the first drum-kick to the very last.
All this talk of the vibrant Ronnie Bosh character harks back to the Marvel-like exploits of his early career and this is powerfully vindicated on final track, ‘Pulp’, featuring the first full Contact Play collaboration in almost 7 years. Their skills definitely haven’t dulled in this time, however, bringing characteristically off-key lyrics over eerie xylophone keys and some of the most wonderfully ignorant lines on the whole project (“I dunno maybe lube yer face”). With references to breaking into student dorms and terrorising year 7’s it is hard not to feel slightly sentimental for times passed; though as the chorus (and, thus, the entire album) ends with “I just did a shit on the floor and your bitch is still licking my ball-ball balls…” this doesn’t last long. From Contact Play at least, that is definitely All People Expect.
Ronnie Bosh covers a lot of ground on this project. While cuts like ‘100%’, ‘You Know’ and ‘Get Out’ serve to solidify his personality among the High Focus roster, Ronnie also manages to explore himself within this larger than life persona on tracks such as ‘All People Expect’, ‘Honourable Death’ and ‘(Do You Ever) Think’. All the while navigated with compelling rhythm, veteran lyricism and stellar supports from the Contact Play family, Ronnie Bosh reveals an artistic maturity on ‘All People Expect’ that truly embodies everything a debut solo project could aspire to be.
Don’t miss Bosh taking up his rightful place in the annals of UK hip hop history with this release. All People Expect drops tomorrow, cop it on High Focus Records now.