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Pick Up The Pen: Fliptrix On The Thriving UK Hip Hop Scene And 'Patterns Of Escapism'

Wednesday, 23 November 2016 Written by Jonathan Rimmer

Photo: AboveGround

Fliptrix isn’t "just a rapper". In many ways, he’s carried the UK hip hop scene on his shoulders for over half a decade. Since setting up High Focus Records in 2010 he’s helped launch the careers of artists who are now considered innovators: Jam Baxter, Ocean Wisdom, Dirty Dike. The list goes on.

But while he’s seen as the unassuming guy behind the scenes – or behind a mask when performing with his crew the Four Owls – Fliptrix’s own back catalogue is as impressive as any of those belonging to his underground peers.

His upcoming record, ‘Patterns of Escapism’, is the London emcee’s sixth since 2007. Back then, he was little more than a student of a British hip hop movement that risked becoming superseded by grime. Unsurprisingly, the artists he names as influences are almost entirely from the oft-cited ‘golden era’ and Low Life Records.

“I was about 16 when I discovered guys like Task Force, Jehst, Klashnekoff and Skinnyman,” he says. “Those were the ones that made me want to pick up the pen. I remember, prior to that, back in the day, everyone’s favourite rappers were American. You ask people now and a majority will say guys from the UK. I think people are more susceptible to enjoying hip hop in their own accent. The scene’s in the best place it’s ever been.”

Although Fliptrix is too modest to take much credit for this progression, he talks enthusiastically about those flying the flag in 2016. He’s quick to praise Wretch 32 for “spearheading hip hop in the mainstream” and says he’s “always down” to work with artists he rates even if they have a different style.

His new album’s list of features reads like a who’s who of the scene. Old school veterans Life MC and King Kashmere, long time collaborators Verb T and Dabbla and rising star Ocean Wisdom all make appearances. Given Fliptrix’s reputation as a kingmaker, this might not seem surprising. But the arrival of ‘Patterns of Escapism’ only four years after the most personal record of his career makes these guest spots feel special.

“Even though I went and released other records in between, this new album has been years in the making,” he says. “By contrast, ‘The Road To The Interdimensional Piff Highway’ was written in about two weeks and had no features at all. That album was a bit of an awakening for me – I got a lot off my chest. This time around I wanted to go back to that old-school boom bap feel that made me fall in love with hip hop in the first place. Is it a bit more fun? Yeah, I’d say so.”

With his melodic flow and animated vocal delivery, Fliptrix has always been an entertainer, but the word ‘fun’ seems like a misnomer. Though less cerebral or verbose than labelmates Ed Scissor and Jam Baxter, his rhyming style has always been deeply introspective.

“I’ve grown a lot as a person since I put out my first material,” he says. “Music is all about self-exploration. While ‘Patterns of Escapism’ isn’t as dark as my previous album, it still deals heavily with the idea that music is an escape.

“Everyone has their own way of escaping – their own medium. I don’t just mean negative ones like drinking and drugs but also art and whatever that might entail. It could be painting or yoga or writing lyrics. I think the album deals with that in a very uplifting way.”

Produced entirely by jazz-obsessed beatmaker Illinformed, ‘Patterns…’ is a colourful and engaging LP full of potential singles. In fact, he’s already released four videos on YouTube before the album’s even dropped.

“You have to be inventive these days if you want to stay relevant,” he says. “It’s all about remaining consistent and putting out a quality product. That means videos, merchandise and shows. That means licensing tracks and putting out records.

“I really try and remain proactive. Running the label is just another avenue for me. Keeping my fingers in so many pies has taken me around the world doing this so I absolutely embrace everything and work hard. You get out what you put in.”

While endorsements from legends DJ Premier and R.A. the Rugged Man demonstrate his growing reputation, you get the sense that Fliptrix will always be at the epicentre of UK hip hop regardless. And, as though further proof that he’s a workaholic was needed, he’s already talking about new music.

“In regards to Four Owls stuff, there’s a track with R.A. the Rugged Man that’s been finished,” he says. “Two of the crew have new records on the way that we’ll be putting out and then we plan to get back in the lab after that. I’m also looking to put a tour together in the new year in support of the album, probably between January and April.

“A lot of things have happened recently with the UK rap and grime scenes blowing up and I think it’s all positive. All I can do is big up everyone who continues to follows us at High Focus. We’re not going to stop bringing out music.”

‘Patterns of Escapism’ is out on November 25 through High Focus



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