This is the first review I've done for Think Zebra that's not for a strictly Hip Hop release. The High Focus musical juggernaut are expanding their sound as a label outside the boundaries of what you'd expect from such a scene stalwart and this EP is the first release from the fruits of that labour. The name Leaf Dog is as synonymous with the label as it's founder Fliptrix, one of the UK's premier Producers and one quarter of HF's Hip Hop Super Group The Four Owls. Leaf is in an envious position as a UK based producer in that he can pick and choose his projects and the artists that he works with. All of which leads us to Leafs co-conspirator on this project. Rag & Bone man first made his mark on the UKHH scene working with Brighton beasts Rum Committee. He may not look it in the flesh, but listening to him sing you'd think Rags was the reincarnation of a 1930s Blues Singer from Americas Deep South. His soaring range and bittersweet lyrics transport the mind of the listener to the smoke filled clubs and bars of Mississipi, in short the boy's got soul.
Dog & Bone see's Rags & Leaf combining their two disciplines to impressive effect. Leaf's fluid, Blues tinged Hip Hop beats that are as effortlessly dope fuse with Rags gravelly dirt road Blues songs. "Nobody", which acts as the EPs lead track, kicks off with warm sweeping keys giving it an almost Gospel feel while Rags belt's out a tale of lost friends and fierce independence.
"Right Now" is full of dirty horns with a New Orleans vibe to it, lyrically this track is my favourite of Rags' on the EP, acting like an intervention with an ex-girl hooked on the glass pipe.
"Fix up baby, put that pipe down, I mean right now/ I'm gonna have to turn your ass out, I mean right now/ Wash yourself, get a job and pay the bills/ I mean right now, I mean right now" - Rag & Bone Man-Right Now
"Begging For The Bone" is your traditional Blues staple of the vindictive devil woman and living dirt poor. All this over a much more Hip Hop feeling instrumental, once again classily forged by Leaf on the boards. This acts as a pre-cursor to the first all-out Hip Hop track on the EP. "Digging For Gold" see's Leaf stepping forward with a Mic, joined by Eat Good legend Sonnyjim with Rags blasting a more than solid hook. "Whatever's Left" is much more a duet than the previous track, with Rags and Leaf exchanging bars and Rags acting as a backup on Leaf's nihilistic, almost paranoid themed verses. I think as a consequence of this it's a much more effective blend of the Hip Hop/Blues fusion of the project and would make for a superb live performance.
"Someday" rounds off the EP beautifully, with Rags taking centre stage again like a classic Blues man over a chopped up banger from Leaf.
All in I'm loving the new direction High Focus are taking with this, it's refreshing to see such an established Label that's not afraid to do something unexpected like this. We already know how great Leaf's beats are and he provides some superb backdrops for the massively talented to shine. Expect to see Rag & Bone man forge a huge future for himself in both UKHH and further afield. Thoroughly recommended.
9/10 - Totally sick