Boom Bap Festival, Suffolk, 05.06 - 07.06.15

The fourth year of the Suffolk hip-hop festival reviewed ft Earl Sweatshirt, Skepta and Foreign Beggars

Aug 2nd, 2015 at / By Sam Bennett
Boom Bap Festival, Suffolk, 05.06 - 07.06.15 After a dehydrating train journey and a shared taxi complete with very cheap cider, I arrived in the heart of the Suffolk countryside, for a jam-packed, non stop hip-hop experience courtesy of Boom Bap Festival. 2015 is the fourth year for the festival, and with only 2000 tickets available, it was set to be an intimate atmosphere reserved for the enthusiasts and faithful. A pop up tent meant that I was set up in no time, ready to start the weekends activities.

Opening the main stage on Friday is Smellington Piff. The RLD signee is joined by BVA, Sean Peng and OAB on stage, and Gorilla Growers sets the revellers heads nodding for the first time this weekend. Piff's delivery is crystal clear throughout the set, finishing on Piff Land.

Next up is Cappo, a veteran wordsmith from Nottingham. He strikes an imposing figure on stage, and the crowd, albeit noticeably smaller than was present for Smellington Piff, are ready for his unorthodox style. The beats bang, and Cappo's layered, complex lyricism sounds at home over the cinematic instrumentals. Cappo announces his new supergroup, comprised of the Grand Imperial himself, Juga-Naut and Vandal Savage. The trio impress, going back to back with nice flows, before Cappo closes the set out with an onslaught of his traditional, hard hitting vibe.

Continuing the festivities on the main stage, Black Josh delivers a high octane and lively set, spitting bars from the stage floor to the top of the speakers. The more soulful side of Josh's style is perfect for the festival, and the Mancunian Blah Records representative completes an animated set with Paul Scholes. Bristolian fan favourite J-Man follows Josh, starting with a dope acapella before launching into his set properly with Weed & Ale.

Res, Upfront MC, Bil Next, Paro and Flying Monk are the Split Prophets line-up for today, and the Bristolian spitters draw a huge crowd, which is unsurprising considering their popularity in the scene, and is a testament to their ability and consistency. They deliver a cool, professional set, with the beats keeping the heads nodding from start to finish. Upfront paces the stage waving a huge Weed Masons flag as Paro and Bil Next drop 33rd Degree flawlessly. Res and Upfront go back to back on the classic Prophets cut 2 Kids, and Upfront also impresses on a solo tip with Thru Your Speakers. Scottish MC Physiks joins Res on stage for Everything You've Got from Res' solo album, and Res' distinctive intricacy in his writing is incredibly effective.

Phili N Dotz, comprised of Si Phili of Phi Life Cypher and freestyle virtuoso Dotz, hold it down on the Sika stage, with a series of tight freestyles and dope tracks from the duo's album. The two MC's have seamless chemistry, despite a couple of feedback issues and mic problems. Their multisyllabics are fantastically structured and always impressive, proving that there is incredible talent to be found all around the Boom Bap site, not just on the main stage.

The slow tempos and deep bass of Sumgii's production with Cult Mountain fills Mildenhall stadium as the full gang takes to the stage. Lee Scott, Milkavelli and Trellion's witty, punchline heavy lyricism is wildly entertaining. Tracks like Puta, from Lee's Tin Foil Fronts album hit home, and Trellion drops a heavy solo cut before Blah Records signee Stinkin Slumrok takes to the mix to show his skills, which he does in abundance despite the obvious intoxication. SMFDB Part 2 is packed with characteristic quotables, and I've been fiending for Cult Mountain's follow up EP since the festival to hear this track in its recorded glory. Lee discards his hoodie, which causes a genuine struggle before dropping the first verse of Don't Make Me to close the set; Cult Mountain and 616 is most definitely for the kids.

Earl Sweatshirt is one of the most exciting current hip-hop artists, with his I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside album receiving widespread acclaim. His set at this year's festival is a testament to the growing attention Boom Bap is attracting. With a consistently professional and confident performance, showcasing Earl's intricate, personal writing and unique ear for slow-paced, perfectly suited beats, he creates a real vibe with his slow, meaningful delivery and internal, multisyllabic content.

Following Earl comes Friday's headliner, grime pioneer Skepta (pictured). He is energetic and aggressive from the get go, with the anthem That's Not Me setting the tone. Skepta drops non stop crowd pleasers without a second's break, packed with quotable verses and more reloads than I can count. Skepta's headline slot is suitably gritty, perfect for the energy of the crowd, and he finishes emphatically with Shutdown.

Still going strong, I make my way to the Square One tent. Jam Baxter and Dabbla of Dead Players take to the stage. The energetic duo storm through Bottle, and drop an unadulteratedly abrasive tune from their upcoming second album. The anthemic Winning is a killer, with uptempo, consistent flows from both MCs, and a resounding performance of Badman also impresses.

Edward Scissortongue follows, holding down his performance with simply a laptop and microphone. The Prospector is chilled and touching, and Scissor's percussive delivery and detailed concepts translate excellently, the in depth and layered writing is impeccable, and the Boom Bap audience are hanging on every word.

After a night's sleep and reinvigorating curry dog, it's time to get back on the wagon. Fliptrix and Verb T bring soulful vibes from the Sika stage, perfect to start the Saturday. As Fliptrix drops See The Sun, the hungover crowd quickly forget their headaches in favour of some quality hip-hop. Fliptrix delivers an emphatic performance of Jeheeze and displays flawless breath control on Graffiti Won't Die. Verb T also shows his skills with Spinning Out and Leave Me Alone, dropping unique and humble lyricism. Fliptrix keeps the energy up with Wylin' Out and Vultures, and Boom Bap is most definitely in full swing again.

Displaying pure grit, Strange U are a forward thinking act. Kashmere's deep voice and Zygote's left-field beats result in undeniable bangers. The Cake Is A Lie is a prime example of Zygote's glitchy, hard hitting production, and Kashmere drops heavy bar after heavy bar in his trademark Strange U mask. Zygote's minimalistic instrumental and Kashmere's instantly recognisable tone make Dolph Lungeren a huge track, and a standout of the set.

Over on the main stage Mr. Thing is filling the early Saturday afternoon air with good vibes. People sit on the grass taking in the sun as a broad spectrum of quality hip-hop blasts through Mildenhall Stadium.

TPS are a down to earth UK hip-hop outfit, releasing dope music as a crew as well as some heavy solo offerings. Big Toast, Jack Diggs and Strange Neighbour jam to head-nodding boom bap at the Sika stage, with relatable, witty bars. The crime soundscape of The Rider, a new tune produced by Hermit The Sloth, hits hard, and Jack Diggs is impressive, spitting with clarity throughout. Fuck Off Tarquin is a tune I keep on rotation regularly, and the uptempo, jazzy beat and the witty, on point lyricism both go down a storm.

A rare opportunity to see Tenchoo live was an exciting prospect. The guy is a legend in terms of battling, and his music has always impressed too. He opens his Sika stage set with Melee, and his percussive delivery and raw flow is demonstrated over a hardcore beat. His flow is decisive, and the rapid spitting lands with heavy impact. Tenchoo addresses the music industry on Enemy Of The Scene; his content is filled with substantial topics, and his stage persona is chilled and effective.

Veteran Birmingham MC SonnyJim, accompanied by Kosyne, attracts a decent turnout over on the main stage. With a cocky stance, a high punchline count and lots of liquor, the Eat Good spitter shows why he's a formidable player in the UK hip-hop game. A freestyle over Action Bronson's Shiraz instrumental is sick, and SonnyJim fills his set with an onslaught of passionate lyricism.

Legendary British beatsmith Lewis Parker keeps the heads nodding for the duration of his set on the main stage, with a gritty, dusty selection of crisp snares and pounding kicks. The producers are in the spotlight just as much as the rappers at this years festival, and it's great to see Boom Bap representing the culture as fully as they do.

Dirty Dike kicks off an evening of High Focus themed entertainment. By his own admission dangerously sober at the start of his set, Dike launches into He's Getting Judged Like An Idiot and sets the tone. A flawless run through of Ten Dike Commandments, with the crowd backing Dike on every bar, is impressive. The Cambridge MC's stage show is always encapsulating, energetic and enjoyable, and tonight is no different. Dike's passion and intricacy is clear to see as Catch Me If You...Nah and How Many Dikes both go down a storm. Hi I'm James and Return Of The Twat fill the Suffolk air, before Pork Pie finishes the set emphatically.

Jam Baxter follows, and the up-tempo imagery laden bars, punchy kicks and in your face synths keep the intensity high. He plays one of my favourite Baxter tunes, Fine, before launching into material from his recent So We Ate Them Whole album. Dirty Dike, Don Silk and Lee Scott contribute from the back of the stage with Gucci Mane esque adlibs; I don't know whether 'contribute' is really the right word to be honest, but they're definitely warranted as Baxter displays his excellent ability to switch up to double time flows with ease. Baxter matches the intensity of Friday's Dead Players performance on his solo steez as Yeah gets the crowd jumping. He finishes with the ultra-hype Leash; Baxter's set is a masterclass in high-octane production and dense lyricism, combining with quality results.

The Four Owls (preview pic) attract a huge turnout. Opening with Silent Flight, the masks are in full effect and UK hip-hop is definitely in the building, or the field. The Owls' on stage chemistry is perfect, and as Be Original pumps through the main stage speakers, Fliptrix, BVA, Leaf Dog and Verb T show just why they're at the top of the bill. The atmosphere is buzzing, and it's certainly a testament to the Owls' authority and influence. Tracks like Assassination and Burning Vapour show the Owls' versatility and deep catalogue, and it's great to see that both tracks from their debut album, Nature's Greatest Mystery, and joints from this years Natural Order rock the crowd. With Jam Baxter joining for Life In A Balance and Smellington Piff killing his verse on Dawn Of A New Day, it's clear that the High Focus roster and extended family are some of the most consistent and talented artists in the scene. As Not Like Before starts, Fliptrix tells Molotov, who is killing it on the decks, to pull the track up. 'You're at a 9.5 level', he tells the crowd. 'We need a 10!' The crowd oblige and the Owls kill the track, for the umpteenth time tonight. They close the set with Think Twice, produced by DJ Premier. It's dope to see a UK group, at a UK festival named Boom Bap, performing a track with a beat from one of the greatest and influential producers from hip-hop's golden era.

Sunday started as a chilled one. Delta Lima and No Name perform on the Sika Stage, albeit later than billed. Lima displays a convincing flow and deep voice over textured, dramatic production. Astro Projector is a standout. The gritty, piano laced beat and the effective flows and deliveries combine and work excellently; the smallish crowd is definitely receptive. The set closes with Blessed, a soulful tune with atmospheric vocal samples and intense kick.

Ocean Wisdom is next up on the Sika stage, with DJ Sammy B-Side on the decks; I've lost count of how many times I've seen him over the weekend. Wisdom starts with a witty acapella, laced with a percussive flow and intricate writing. With head-nodding Dirty Dike production on the opening track, the crowd bops back and forth to the on point spitting and delivery. Next up is a collaboration with Foreign Beggars. The newest addition to High Focus Records shows his his screwface inducing mic skill from start to finish. It's sick to have a chance of hearing the Walkin' follow-up; Wisdom's ability to switch flows at the rate he does is incredibly impressive. He finishes on the original tune, which receives two reloads and a mosh pit. I think that's enough said.

Over on the main stage is the final of the ongoing open mic competition. Trademark Blud is through already, with four other MC's competing for the final place. Oracy takes on SeeWhy, and Harvy is pitted against Vitamin G. Oracy and Vitamin G go back to back in a one round elimination battle, which Oracy is declared the winner of. Oracy, a dope female spitter, and Trademark Blud compete both on beat and acapella, and both hold it down. Blud's acapella alphabet bars are nice, but Oracy wins on a crowd decision.

Rum Committee are next up, and CW Jones opens the set. Jones has a vintage blues sound with a great hip-hop twist. Prince Kong, Mad Hatter, Gi3mo, Ceezlin and Ocean Wisdom join on stage; the Rumbustious crew kill a selection of raw, cypher-feel tracks. Ocean Wisom smashes Walkin' for a second time this weekend, and the set is a cool showcase for all the Brighton talent on stage.

Theme is one of the nicest spitters in the country, and if anybody needed convincing, he displays his gutteral, experienced flow over neck snapping boom bap production at a blistering rate. His verses are packed with complex rhyme schemes and structures, and I only wish the set was longer. Remus and BLK BLVD follow with a heavy set, and Remus' content and powerful delivery goes down well. I'm eagerly awaiting his upcoming debut album. Real Talk Records have definitely got a talented selection of artists on their roster.

Skinnyman storms on stage and declares that it's the 10 year anniversary of his classic, hugely influential album, Council Estate Of Mind, also announcing that today will be the last time he'll perform tunes from that album, ready for a new project next year. He performs Life In My Rhymes, albeit briefly, a running theme in the set, before freestyling with Chester P. Proclaiming himself a 'UK hip-hop granddad', Skinnyman kicks Love's Gone From The Streets and Music Speaks Louder Than Words, before reverting back to the Council Estate Of Mind selection. He drops No Big Ting and I'll Be Surprised, and the classics from his acclaimed album constantly keep the crowd energised, no matter if Skinnyman plays a whole tune or four bars. Smoking Ban goes down well, and Skinnyman closes his set by bringing his son on stage for a legendary performance of Fuck The Hook. The set is enjoyable, I do wish Skinnyman would play some tunes in their entirety though.

Onoe Caponoe, another of High Focus' ever-deep roster of talent, kills a performance packed with bassy tunes and double time flows. His distinctive tone blares out across the East Anglian countryside, and Caponoe's set is a testament to the versatility present on the High Focus roster.

Your Old Droog, a promising and talented East Coast MC, whose tunes are packed with lyricism. He rocks over a series of classic beats, as well as dropping dope original tracks, and his gritty, consistent flow and slick delivery makes for a really professional set.

Daddy Skitz' set is one that is eagerly awaited. The certified veteran and UK legend Rodney P starts a set that is packed with some of the innovators of the scene, as well as some of the new school crop, backed by one of the most important UK hip-hop producers ever. Skinnyman joins for a hyped performance, and Skitz' beats keep the necks in the crowd moving. He's joined by Mr. Ti2bs, a highly under-rated rapper who has been putting in the work for years. Res and Upfront, of the Split Prophets crew, drop bars over Roots Manuva's Blessed Be The Manor, showing that the new school can definitely hang with the vets. Leaf Dog, BVA and Smellington Piff continue the trend, with a version of Leaf's Walk With Me, followed by Chester P dropping The Junkyard. P's consistent discography and important, thought-provoking lyricism has made him one of the most respected MC's of the generation, and deservedly so. Skitz keeps the vibe going, and Bristol MC Buggsy brings a Jamaican influence and a chilled vibe perfect for the hot Sunday evening. Skitz' set sees the microphone pass from old school UK MC's and the newer talent at breathtaking speed, and the set finishes with Rodney P, Dirty Dike, Stig Of The Dump, Leaf Dog and J-Man going back to back.

Problem Child keep the energy levels at a maximum, opening with the Fully Fledged remix, which finds Buggsy venturing back on stage. Sumgii holds down the decks, and his production sounds banging through the Boom Bap system. The group drop an up-tempo, energetic new track which demonstrates their humour and rapid flows. Dabbla throws multiple copies of the Problem Child album into the crowd, and they smash Colourblind. The hard hitting dubstep production does a fantastic job of keeping the crowd hyped. Dabbla, Dubbledge and Illaman have a flawless stage show and demonstrate incredible flows and breath control.

Stig Of The Dump, who has been hosting the main stage all day drops a collaboration with Micall Parknsun, showcasing the two veterans' heavy styles. Following this it's time for a performance from left-field New York trio Ratking. Their vibe is different to the one we've come to expect from NY artists in recent years; the slow paced, trippy beats combine with cocky lyricism to great effect. Ratking are an authentic, distinctive and progressive East Coast voice that goes down well with the Boom Bap audience.

Headlining the final night of the festival are UK heavyweights Foreign Beggars. They are energetic to a point that is off the scale, and the crowd match them on that. Orifice Vulgatron and Metropolis both have an engrossing stage presence, and kill it with their early hip-hop tracks of the 2000s, as well as on newer, more electronically driven cuts. Stig Of The Dump, Chester P, J-Man, Illaman and Don Silk join for a four bar back to back freestyle, and they also play their new collaboration with Ocean Wisdom. Ocean's voice gets more strained with each performance I see over the weekend, but he absolutely kills it regardless. Hold On with Skinnyman is a real highlight, with the full UK hip-hop gang and Boom Bap family on stage.

Boom Bap Festival was a weekend spent in the midst of hip-hop culture; no matter where you went in the festival, graffiti pieces lined the site, a record fair for those who felt confident enough in their ability to look after their belongings, some great independent clothing brands, drunk freestyle cyphers and a whole lot of incredible music. Until next year Boom Bap.

Photo credit: Seren Heyward-Jones