Bobby Royale – ‘Tag Team Flow’ ft. Rico Won
On Friday the 4th of March, Gurra G from Just D, Isac Parker, Tjompa and Skiss, better known as the group Bobby Royale released their third album “Street Level” via Staarsound Records. Consisting of 11 tracks, the at times politically charged album, is a tribute to the boom bap era, and features some of Sweden’s most illustrious rappers. Integrating hip-hop and jazz, which was first successfully experimented in the early ’90s, sounds so diverse to today’s rap that it would seem like the best Bobby Royale could hope for was an album that longtime hip-hop heads would adore, but excite few younger listeners unfamiliar with this style of music. As it turns out, “Street Level” is a triumphant, alluring and all-embracing album that will defy such expectations.
Largely, “Street Level” has the classic boom bap sound: a warm and crisp confluence of East Coast hip-hop, jazz, and more, all mixed and mastered impeccably. The instrumentation makes the album feel as alive as any other rap release made today, while the vocals further regenerate the sound. Meanwhile, the members of Bobby Royale and the featured rappers, all come with a sense of urgency and camaraderie. They never feel like they are just going through the motions.
Lyrically, the album is particularly of-the-time, digging deep inside its conscious themes. The importance of the emergence of “Street Level” isn’t just in its blend of rap and jazz, future and past, but in Bobby Royale’s impeccable timing.
They are reinstating the blend of jazz and rap as an accessible language for a new generation, obsessed by the total dominance of trap and it’s off spins. Wide-eyed yet assured, Bobby Royale create music that reflect the struggles, injustices and experiences of our day.
The album opens with “The Return” ft. Magnus Loftstrom, which quickly sets the tone with it’s smooth mid-tempo balladry and highflying vocal hooks. This takes us directly to the nineties New York sound of “Tag Team Flow” ft. Rico Won.
It’s fluidity is almost alchemic, as the rappers switch verses effortlessly. Things get soulful and melodic on “The Monument” while the rapping maintains its cutting-edge sharpness. The rich and harmonious backdrop adds a cinematic touch to the proceedings.
“Three Towns” ft. Red-E and obnoXluz unfolds stories from Malmö, Gothenburg and Stockholm, before Bobby Royale move on to the lyrically caustic and sax-fueled, “The Revolution Is Televised”.
Next up is “Rich Mans World” ft. Prop Dylan, which strives to unfold societal ills due to elitist and capitalist thinking. “Mr.Hubbard” ft. Ladybug, delivers some more soulful and melodic hooks, which add more dynamism to the album, while “Commercial Break” adds more thought-provoking moments.
The horns and piano lead us straight into the energy-filled and banging groove of “Crowd Get Up”. From there, it’s on to “Gods & Kings ft. TABS which investigates the rise of right-wing sentiments, backed by some powerful saxophone motifs and hard-hitting words. All of this is delivered with the authentic sense of scrutiny that is at the heart of the best conscious music. The album closes with “Real Reality” ft. MC Habit.
Though always deep thinking, Bobby Royale never get carried away with their own intellectual and political tendencies, leaving plenty of room for good music and technical showmanship. The flows are also consistently dazzling, whomever they come from, making “Street Level” an extremely well balanced recording. There is a great awe in listening to its absolute fluidity.
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