Long established as a cornerstone of the burgeoning UK hip hop scene, prolific rapper Ramson Badbonez swaps the mic for the mixing desk for the first time with the release of his explosive new album “Lead by Example”.
Throughout one of the most impressive production debuts witnessed for many years, benchmark standards are set early with a high bar. Unique in its nature, heavyweights from the USA, Canada and the UK share equal billing in a stellar line up of guest featured artists delivering a showcase of the highest calibre lyricism, compelling rhymes and slick wordplay.
Immersed in the culture from his early teenage years, Ramson’s wider influences of original funk, soul, rare groove and jazz are discernible in a soundtrack woven together to fuse the classic and modern eras. Laced with additional scratch sorcery courtesy of turntablists DJ Miracle, Kompoze and DJ Jazz T, each track precision cut as a backdrop for the gamut of verbal artistry to unleash their full artillery.
Rarely, if ever, has such an array of trans-Atlantic talent appeared together on the one record with beats forged in the streets of London. Following the frenzied beat juggling of the album’s intro, “Stay True” lays down the marker, a timeless slice of neck breaking boom bap ferociously torn apart by east coast warriors Reks, Ruste Ruxx & Blacastan. The raucous early exchanges transition to the cool west coast groove of “Rap to the Future” as Dizzy Dustin, Mr Hooper & Canada’s Moka Only take turns in evoking the sights and sounds of earlier years.
The album represents a new additional chapter of a career, and Ramson reminds us of his continued lyrical prowess with sparring partner Mark Fear on the fuel injected “Nonchalant” before again switching gears to the smoky new wave flavours of “Bismillah” blessed by cerebral jewels from Brooklyn’s Justo the MC, Johaz of Dag Savage and rapidly rising Nebraskan Sleep Sinatra.
The art of storytelling underpins “Wolves” with street tales of fallen kingpins as Ramson again picks up the mic with fellow Londoners Cyclonious and Triple Darkness member Phoenix da Icefire through a journey down the city’s underbelly accompanied by the subtle echoes of atmospheric piano loops. The mood shifts direction again as ebullient rasping brass stabs strike up and hail the arrival of “Equality for Every”, Ramson this time being joined by “the good doctor” Chima Anya over quirky syncopation as the pair compare notes on racial justice and equal opportunities.
New Jersey verbal assassins Tru Trilla, Fly Kwa and Prince Ak are next to enter the ring with their raw and uncompromising punchlines delivering knockout blows to all comers on “Lame Duck”, the energy intensified by potent bass and kicks combinations that tears through defences and takes no prisoners in a sonic war of attrition.
Going solo on “Chinchillas”, Ramson takes down the fake exponents with sniper-like accuracy, lyrically dissecting his targets with the ease of a surgeon’s knife before his mix of high octane breakbeat and acid-jazz fires up the engines and clears the way for Az Izz of The Outsidaz, Ohio’s Speed Walton and New Jersey natives Cymarshall Law and Quip to bring out the verbal cannons on “Reservoir Dogs”.
It’s an all UK affair on the album’s penultimate track as a “Who’s Who” of the local scene pile in with Ramson to trade bars on the outstanding posse cut “Black Hole Cypher”. Relentless business from Kashmere, Truemendous, MysDiggi, Micall Parknsun, Joker Starr, Gee Bag, Confucius, Jehst and Phoenix da Icefire precedes title track “Lead by Example”, a straight banger with Stateside luminaries Recognize Ali, Skyzoo and New York’s Juxx Diamondz dropping knowledge through trademark dexterous flows to wrap up things up in considerable style.
An essential hip hop collector’s item with few comparisons, an authentic landmark release. This is the real deal.