A year after they visited Exeter on the back of releasing their sophomore album ‘Natural Order’, UK hip-hop supergroup The Four Owls returned to take flight once again. Landing on BVA MC’s 30th birthday, this tour date was set to pop off…
Fliptrix (Big Owl), Verb T (Bird T), Leaf Dog (Deformed Wing) and BVA MC (Rusty Take Off) form one of record label High Focus’s collectives, The Four Owls. Arguably Britain’s greatest underground hip-hop group, the Owls have recently been gaining fans in the popular sphere through their commitment to authentic hip-hop and witty lyricism.
The headliners were set to hit the stage at 1:30 which granted over five hours of music from the event’s support acts across two stages. Primarily hailing from a local roster promoted by Davon-based movement OneLion Sound, the vast array of warm up acts managed to contain The Prophecy, Scottish duo Delivery Room and even grime artist STINKIN SLUMROK along with High Focus’ Molotov on the ones and twos. Whilst the crowds may have dwindled earlier in the night, acts amongst the line-up did not fail to put on energetic shows despite set-backs. With Detax spitting politically motivated acapella verses during technical hitches, and other acts opting to surprise the crowd with beat boxing, (proving that the skill is still relevant as a key component of hip-hop culture), each artist managed to captivate the room and even earn themselves fans. Most impressively however, one hype man even managed to land a side flip off the stage into the crowd who eagerly parted before him.
Finally, as their 2011 intro track ‘Take Flight’ rang through the venue, each member of The Four Owls swooped onto stage with their iconic bird masks transforming the rappers from their respective identities to avian exaggerations of their own personalities. With two LPs out as a collective, and many releases from their independent solo ventures, The Four Owls are an experienced and talented group. Performing tracks from their discography, the group also played popular songs from rapper/producer Leaf Dog’s début album ‘From A Scarecrow’s Perspective’. Leaf’s own bangers such as the raucous ‘Some People Say’ and ‘Walk With Me’ led the faithful crowd into chants as they sprung up and down like double-shot rides at amusement parks.
As we predicted in ‘High Focus’ 2016 – What’s To Come?‘ earlier this year, Leaf Dog has just announced that he will be dropping a new solo album this year to quench the thirst of fans who have been teased persistently by his relentless collaborative work over the years. Similarly, High Focus owner Fliptrix declared during the set that he will be releasing another album this year, but in allegiance with Leaf Dog’s younger brother Illinformed on production. Having recently been taken under the wings of Leaf Dog and BVA in their trio Brothers Of The Stone, the young producer put out his first LP ‘The Mould Tape’ last
year on RLD Records. The exclusive exhibition of their first track together saw Illinformed take over the decks from Molotov as Big Owl dominated the stage delivering a promising insight into what their unpredicted album is set to bring.
The group played tracks back-to-back for their entire set. To close, they performed the most popular track from each of their albums in chronological order: their canonical ‘Not Like Before’ followed by ‘Think Twice’. Whilst Leaf Dog has produced every Four Owls track so far, an exception is made for ‘Think Twice’. Produced by hip-hop royalty DJ Premier, this may be the collective’s greatest achievement and clearly shows how the group have brought UK hip-hop onto the international scene to much success. Although they may have once been star struck, The Four Owls are now legends to many themselves.
All four masks had gradually been sweated off and wrapped safely away as the show reached its climax. Given that it was BVA’s birthday, the lively crowd brought the gig to an end with a chorused rendition of the joyous ‘Happy Birthday’ to which the man himself blurted “I love you Exeter, that’s the best happy birthday I’ll ever f****** get in my life!” As BVA MC welcomed in a new year, the possibilities for the collective and High Focus this year must also be eagerly anticipated. Having just released limited edition coloured vinyls of their classic début album ‘Nature’s Greatest Mystery’, their influence on UK rap is indisputably prominent as they emerge from the underground, but without losing their focus on truthful hip-hop. After such an incredible performance, The Four Owls will continue to spread their wings and carry the genre upwards.
Hear them here: The Four Owls – Think Twice (Prod. DJ Premier)
Written by: James Wijesinghe
Images courtesy of: @thefourowls (instagram)