Let’s be honest, the world has taken a nosedive. We’ve swapped spring days outside for watching the first sunlight in six months spill onto empty streets. We’ve gone from absolute abundance to hoarding toilet paper. More importantly, we’ve gone from Friday night pub sessions to Friday night TV.
So when you hear The Four Owls are dropping a new album, it’s almost a shock. You remember there’s still worlds beyond our own horizon. There are still people doing things. More importantly, there are still people pushing out world-class hip hop. It might be the end of the world but most of us don’t even know what day of the week it is. Nocturnal Instinct is confirmation that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
With skills honed from almost ten years spitting bars together (and over a decade repping strong solo careers), The Owls have found that golden ground – garnering critical acclaim without burning the bridges that got them there. It’s not an understatement to say they’re probably the sharpest group in hip hop today.
Their status in the scene is backed up by the calibre of artist clamouring for a collab. Gang Starr legend DJ Premier returns to lay down some solid scratching on ‘100%’ while scene veteran Kool G Rap drops some obscenely smart bars on the aptly named ‘Pioneer’. Most fitting of all is Masta Killa’s guest spot on ‘Deadly Movements’. It makes sense; Wu-Tang planted so many of the seeds that would grow into The Owls hunting ground; from the simultaneous solo & group process to the classic soul samples now a bedrock of the Owls sound.
Opener ‘Sound the Alarm’ has some of the tightest bars of any UK release in the past decade. Whether it’s BVA’s talon grip on the bars, Verb’s hypnotic flow, Leaf’s razor-sharp staccato delivery or Fliptrix’s wise lyrical turns, the whole thing fits together like feathers on a wing. That’s not just down to delivery – it’s also thanks to the immaculate beats crafted by Leaf.
OK, so Nocturnal Instinct won’t make everything alright. It won’t save the NHS or keep your nan from being lonely (unless she’s bang into UK hip hop). But it feels like a moment of calm in the absolute shitstorm that is 2020. The world might have descended into a really dull version of 28 Days Later, but, Nocturnal Instinct proves some things will never change. Now wash your hands.
Nocturnal Instinct drops April 17th on High Focus Records.