2&6 Journalist : A.K.A
Photos: High Focus Records
To introduce Fliptrix as a UK Hip-Hop legend would be by no means inaccurate. However, to use a term so glibly used would completely undersell the contribution to the UK music industry that he and his High Focus comrades have made since there genesis. For the last decade, High Focus has been a home for raw creative & industrious talent. What started as a wild idea in the mind of a true hip-hop culture lover in Brighton, quickly grew into a label that celebrates the genuine and wacky aspects of artistery.
Artists such as Dabbla, Jam Baxter, Dirty Dike, Ocean Wisdom, Leaf Dog, Rag n’Bone Man & Onoe Capone have helped bolster High Focus to the very top of independent & underground hip-hop.
2&6 INTERVIEWS FLIPTRIX – LIGHT WORK & HIGH FOCUS
Congratulations on the album launch man, bare gassed to have some new Fliptrix out. How long have you been working on this album for now?
“So i’ve been working on the album for about 2 years now. I started working on it while i was finishing up some projects with the Four Owls, so i was juggling both projects for a while there. It was nice to have that amount of time to write an album like this, quite a lot of things happened in society and in my own life over that time, good and bad”.
“A few mates of mine passed away while i was writing the album, one very close to me, a legendary London graffiti artist by the name of ‘POW’. I dedicated the first single on Light Work, ‘Powerizm’, to him. So that was all pretty sad until a few months later my first son was born which totally flipped my world on its head . However it wasn’t too much longer till the rest of the world joined me and was turned upside down with COVID. The last two years have certainly given me a very broad range of topics, emotions and vibes to draw inspiration from.”
When your writing how do you differentiate between what you think will work for a Fliptrix tune and what you think will suit a Four Owls track more?
“There definitely is a difference! For my own work it tends to be a lot more personal or relate more towards my own thinking whereas when it comes time to write for the Owls, i can sort of flip to my Big Owl alter-ego a little bit. It’s a very different process because the owls stuff is always a lot collaborative. We rarely ever work together over the internet, any time we work on a Four Owls project we always meet up in person and listen to beats together and then pick the content and all write the lyrics together in the same room. That’s why the Owls always has a very cohesive feel when we explore and comment on different topics.
“Of course we are all brothers as well, so as soon as we start writing it becomes a competition to challenge each other to bring our A game. Because we all have our own projects to do as well, we never drop albums that regularly. Our first was in 2011, then 2015 then again in 2020, so we really try and make sure that each one is proper quality. Dirty Dike made about 35 tracks for the last album and then we whittled it down until we got to what became ‘Nocturnal Instincts”.
Mad! I hope to god those remaining tracks get released one day.
“HAHA, I honestly think that we have enough tracks to maybe do like a Four Owls Lost Tapes”.
Going back to Light Work, how do you see this one fitting into your discography? You have so many albums now and each has a very unique style that encapsulates a different time in your life. Is this the most evolved Fliptrix we’ve ever heard?
” Yer definitely, writing and making music has always been a very spiritual process for me, it keeps me happy. Through my music i’m not only getting out what im putting in, like a cleansing thing, but also i tend to write topics that can have a positive effect on others. Ive had people reach out to me to tell me that my music has stopped them killing themselves or had ade them out down the crack pipe. So for me all my albums are part of my own spiritual journey and are all installments and building blocks in that, so its hard to compare.
“When i wrote The Road to The Interdimensional Piff Highway’, it was pretty conceptual but sort of encapsulated exactly where i was at in the beginning of my own musical and spiritual experience. Certain people are therefore going to resonate with different projects depending on where they are’.
I’ve always been mad fascinated with your album art, it has become very psychedelic influenced and very trippy over time. Light work is no exception, who was the artist behind it and what was the inspiration gong in?
“So that artist is called Mat Mill and i actually discovered him on instagram because i’m always looking into weird sacred geometry art and LSD inspired artists and i just instantly fell in love with his work and style. I like creating a cohesive package with all my albums so all my single art was made by him this time round. We stripped it right back so that my name or the album title isn’t featured on the cover, we wanted the art to stand by itself. He literally sent me thousands of images and i worked my way through until i found the ones that represented the song best”.
“It definitely is inspired by Psychedelics. Around “Third Eye of the Storm” in 2012 i started my own experimentation with psychedelics which really got me into the sacred geometry side of art and this style”.
Going back to the early days of Fliptrix when you were at DJ Snuffs Speaking Corner chilling with all them other aspiring MC’s, did you ever think that down the line you would have your owl labels with such prolific MC’s on your roster
“For me it’s mad because it all really started when i was going up to skate in London. When you skate you get this mad sense of freedom, we were just young teens running around the underground and running away from police. But when i was on my way home i would see all these man in suits on there way back from work just looking mad depressed, at that young age i just decided i am not going to be one of these guys”.
“Then when i discovered UK Hip-Hop i was inspired to write lyrics, and me and my mates at the time, non of whom spit any more, would jst freestyle over some beers on a friday night. I made one track that i was really proud of and tried to get it on my mates label I&R, but they had a full roster at the time so he recommended i just start my own thing. I was in music college at the time so i knew how to make it all loo super professional and quality. It was around that time i met Jam Baxter, Leaf Dog & Dirty Dike .
“Baxter and i agreed that i would put out his album on High Focus and then everything started to sort of just fall into place. I was organised and i had a set vision of what it was i wanted to achieve, more importantly i was willing to put in the work. Everyone else at that age likes the making music and partying part of it but not necessarily the admin and business side of things, that’s where i was different. I just kept building and building and kept going until it is was High Focus. Now we are like a brain with separate components that form one powerful entity. Its been an amazing journey to say the least man, at least before corona when we got to fly around the world playing shows and being in the world of music.”
By the sound off it’s almost as if you knew or at least knew that the vision was to be this talented and creative collective of individuals from the start?
“Yer 100%, i was so confident in the talent that i was surrounded with because i loved Hip=Hop so i knew what was good. So meeting up with Dirty Dike, Baxter & Dog it was mad cuz i was already huge fans of them musically and now they were my mates, so i knew it would be special but it’s lasted because it grew organically’.
How did you Jam Baxter, Dirty Dike & Leaf dog actually get introduced to each other?
“So i actually met Jam Baxter in a field party in brighton! He had just moved down to Brighton from London at the same time as me. We all started just freestyling at the field party and then stayed in touch after. Sooner or later Leaf Dog and Beaver came down to visit Baxter and we all started hanging out. Eventually Dirty Dike was released from prison and then moved down to brighton and jumped on the “Contact Play” Album. I had already met Verb T previously around 2007, he was already an OG of the UK music scene having been on Low Life Records. I pitched him the idea of High Focus and he came on board, thats when we officially made The Four Owls”.
Was it always called High Focus from the get go?
“So High Focus began in 2010 with Theory of Rhyme. I had finished my last album ‘Force Fed Imagery’ with a mate of mine on his label ‘Renegade Artistry’, i put the HF sticker on that album but really ‘Theory of Rhyme’ was the first true High Focus release”.
Its mad to think how much has changed and the roster growth of young artists that have joined HF since 2010. What do you look for when you signing new artists to High Focus?
“I really just look out for anyone that catched my ear and impresses me or makes an impression… Anyone that can make me a personal fan of there music. Because we have been in the game now for over 1o years it became very important for us to bring through a new wave of HF talent like Truemendous or Coops ( for our interview with HF artist Truemendous, click here). They also have to just be a nice person, that’s kind of essentially, nobody wants to work with a dick”.
One of my personal favourite tunes of yours in ‘Graffiti won’t die’, do you still get time to pick up a spray can and paint or has it been a little minute?
“Yer man i still have a massive love for graffiti. I don’t get to really get involved with the illegal side of it anymore, it’s a little too risky now but at least a few times a year i still go out and paint some of the tolerated walls in brighton. I still sketch, draw and paint as much as possible in my own time, i definitely still have mad love for graffiti and graffiti writers themselves. They really do do it for the love of the art because there definitely isn’t any money in it”.
I was probably around 13 when i first started paining because i was in love with the whole Hip-Hop culture. I was trying to breakdance and skating, Djing and spitting, i just loved the culture as a whole. Then when i was 16 i got arrested for painting trains, a few mates of mine actually ended up in prison for it, that’s when i started to really focus more on making High Focus a reality’.
Would High Focus want to come back to Amsterdam sometime soon for another High Focus Festival?
“100% man we have mad love for Amsterdam. Melkweg is a classic venue that we have all had some great times at, both as performers and punters. As soon as we are able to we will be back out. Our Amsterdam connection started with Boom Bap Festival back in 2016”.
Wrapping things up here mate, is there a particular High Focus project that isnt your own that you look back on fondly either because of the work that was created or the good time you guys had making it?
“Dabbla’s album ‘The Year of The Monkey’ was a mad fun one to work on. A lot of our artists pretty much have there own studios, so a lot of the creative process happens before i get involved. Having said that, Leaf Dogs ‘From a Scarecrow’s Perspective’ was pretty special because he came to stay with me down in London to record that. Thats when we made the four owls, so if that session never happened, there probably wouldn’t have been a Four Owls. We were all mad high and listening to a Cypress Hill tune called ‘Spark Another Owl’ and started creasing about Owls. That’s how it all started’.
When you brought Rag n’ Bone man onto HF, it was the first evolution away from MCing, how did that situation come about?
“Leaf is such an inspirational guy man, he stumbled across Rory (RagnBone Man) and caught onto his talents very early. He started working with and developing Rory to bring him out of his shell a little more an an artist. There is a whole album somewhere that has just been shelved that they made together”.
Focusing on the business side of things, is there a key business lesson that you have learnt over the years that you wish you knew earlier ?
“Follow your dream and believe in yourself without caring whatever anyone else thinks. Just follow what you love and believe in it, work hard and be a nice person and things are going to work out for you. Perhaps more practically, anyone that is self employed or a musician needs to set up a business bank account s that anything that is spent or made to do with your business can be tracked through that. It makes taxes a hell of a lot easier. I’ve seen so many artists not think about that and get screwed because of it, sounds simple “
Lastly, if you could see 3 artists in history live who would it be?
“Bob Marley because he’s my favourite artist of all time. Then i have to go with Biggie. Then lastly it would be The Fugees.”
INTERVIEW WRITTEN & CONDUCTED BY: CHRIS KELLY PHOTOS: PROVIDED BY TELEMACHUS & HIGH FOCUS RECORDS 20/05/2020 South London’s own, Telemachus, known to many as CHEMO or David Webb, is the legendary producer behind the most forward thinking UK Hip Hop records in recent decades. The partnership between Telemachus and Hip-Hop hegemon High Focus has crafted … Continue reading 2&6 INTERVIEWS TELEMACHUS: BORING & WEIRD HISTORICAL MUSIC