Well established in the UK and abroad, the independent label High Focus Records came to being in Brighton in 2010 under the impulse of Zander aka Fliptrix. Largely inspired by the 1990s with its percussive boom baps topped with soul and jazz samples, High Focus Records nurtures the musical heritage that has otherwise taken a back seat to grime and drill.
Recording collaborations with the likes of DJ Premier, R.A. The Rugged Man and more recently Conway The Machine, the friends and artists that Fliptrix admires have joined the label and become masters of the loop. The updated boom bap shines through particularly strongly in the core group formed by the quartet called The Four Owls (Fliptrix, Verb T, BVA, Leaf Dog), the beatmaker Pitch 92, and rapper-producer Dirty Dike. Alongside composer-performers such as Leaf Dog and Fliptrix, these artists all take an active part in the creation of the label’s artistic identity.
Over the years the new signings have brought variety to the 180 or so projects that make up the High Focus Records catalogue. The explosiveness of Ocean Wisdom, crowned one of the world’s fastest rappers with his track “Walkin” (2014), brought a breath of fresh air as well as giving the label a good reputation. Discovered on Dirty Dike’s rough production of Chaos 93, he has continued his sonic explorations of trap, grime and UK garage, while inviting legends such as Roots Manuva, Dizzee Rascal and Method Man onto his second album, Wizville.
In 2015 the trio Dead Players (Jam Baxter, Dabbla and Ghosttown) used their second album Freshly Skeletal to experiment with more electronic and distorted sounds, while more recently rapper TrueMendous released Huh? This cutting edge seven-track album incorporates the label’s boom bap know-how, trap, and an excursion into funk .
With nearly twenty artists, who have become the guardians of boom bap, High Focus Records will be keeping the doors for musical experimentation wide open. Telemachus’ first album Boring & Weird Historical Music is a great example. It is a cinematic instrumental journey that might seem like something of an enigma within this catalogue, but it serves to remind us that in the UK there’s no fear when it comes to mixing genres. It is with this open-mindedness that the label has been able to welcome protean projects, arouse our curiosity, and stand out from a more stringent brand of hip hop.