File under long ting: Almost six years had passed since the last Foreign Beggars album The Uprising dropped. People were getting impatient…
Following singles Toast, Bosh, Wave and 6 Million Stories, 2 2 Karma finally landed last Friday. Featuring beats from across the bass continuum – Alix Perez to Flux Pavilion via Ivy Lab, Feed Me and their first ever producer Dag Nabbit – and lyrical cameos from a similarly broad spectrum ranging from OG Maco to Kate Tempest, not only is their seventh album their most ambitious, but it’s arguably their most consistent, too… The flow, energy, and dynamics suck you deep into their murky, cynical and caustically honest world with focus and fire.
But for all the big names on the album, 22 Karma remains natural and far from contrived. As the guys explain in this track-by-track breakdown, every hook-up was instinctive, connected and meant to be. The best example of that being Bangzy. A total unknown until winning a production competition on collaborative platform BRAPP, the Dubai producer is behind a sizeable slab of the album and helps to create the consistency and flow amid the chaos.
“I remember staying up super late just to see their live session on Facebook as they listened to the submissions,” he explains. “It was surreal to see them pick the beat I sent and vibe to it. A week later I was sitting down with Pav (Orifice Vulgatron) I handed him my laptop and he took my entire beat catalog to show the rest of the guys. Over the next few months they chose these five beats that made the final cut which felt incredible considering I just took a crazy shot at the beat competition and ended up producing a large chunk of the album.”
“The whole experience has been incredible considering I am this new guy who’s just getting ready to start things off and these guys are legends at what they do. Yet they kept me involved in every move, mix, master of the tracks we made. I tailored the beats according to their needs but at the end most importantly my sound was always intact with their style. I am mad proud of what we’ve crafted together.”
If that doesn’t emphasise the realness of the process and the legitimacy of the situation, perhaps this track-by-track breakdown will. Dig deep and understand how each track came together as Foreign Beggars, Ivy Lab, Flux Pavilion and Dag Nabbit reveal all.
This was one of the first joints we recorded for the record. The concept was to do a throwback rap beat. Alix Perez is on the boards for this one with Nonames on the cut. Once Alix added a touch of that Shades flavour the whole thing is just went bananas. My verse is a flashback of my time growing up in Tufnell Park, while OV took the concept and ran with it, talking about his time growing up in Dubai and eventually coming here. We felt we absolutely had to start the record with this. Shit bangs.
Six Million Stories
This is one of those amazing joints we got from Bangzy. We had to sit on for a while and weren’t quite sure how we wanted to approach. I think the jungle hook just leant itself to speaking about life in London. We were really blessed to have Kate Tempest feature on it. She’s somebody who was always around in the rap scene back in the day but who’s journey went on a completely parallel trajectory so it meant a lot that we managed to work together.
We wanted to use that Scott Garcia sample on the hook from day one but weren’t sure we’d be able to get, but OV bumped into him randomly outside Birthday’s in Dalston once the track was basically finished and he loved the idea. The last person to work on the joint was the homie Halogenix who we brought on board to work on the drums in the hook. And of course, it being a track about London, we thought who better to bring on board to introduce it and tie everything together than Bionic from London Posse.
Maaaan, when we heard this beat the first time, we knew we wanted to write something powerful on it. In fact that’s how we felt on most of the Bangzy productions we heard. The verses were basically written and recorded but we just needed a hook and we really wanted a singer. After a few demos we were eventually introduced to Afronaut Zu through Kojey and that session was incredible. He absolutely nailed the hook and the track turned into something real real special. Definitely one of our favourites from the record.
Another one produced by Alix Perez. Our studios are right next to each other, so I think one day OV just knocked on his door and they got to working on the track from scratch. Izzie and Dizmak are guys we have rated for a long time so we hit them up and they came in and absolutely bodied the joint. We got the homie Sgt Pokes on the intro. It’s such a cold banger.
Okay so we actually share a studio with Ivy Lab so this was a collar waiting to happen. They gave us a slew of beats to pick from but we knew this was the one. OV invited Black Josh down to come work on it and it turned into something next level. Another crew favourite.
Ivy Lab: We’ve been dancing around each other for years, always threatening to get a track built and never quite crossing the threshold. Ebow and I have known each since we were teenagers so it’s extra meaningful to have finally made a studio project happen. We’d been sitting on the demo beat for a minute, being kinda grumpy and stubborn about who to let grace it. In retrospect we’re kinda baffled that the idea of letting Foreign Beggars have it didn’t arise sooner, they’re perfect for it.
Crash & Burn
Another Bangzy production. His beats have real scope for emotive songwriting. I think the beat was originally called Crash & Burn, we just ran with it. We brought in our close friend Andre Laville to lace the hook. We really wanted to approach this whole album from a perspective on honesty, we wanted people to walk away feeling they know a bit more about who we are and our perspectives on the current state of play in the world and I feel we definitely achieved that on this song in particular.
Blood In The Sink
Okay so before this track was recorded, Kojey Radikal was one of the guys we really wanted to work with on this record. Ever since hearing his joint Kwame Nkrumah in particular, which Ed Skrein showed me a while back. Them being friends, he introduced us and we ended up doing the session in Alix Perez old studio in Hornsey. Bangzy produced this as well. His beats are these amazing landscapes. Kojey picked up the vibe we were on straight away and I feel its another one of the special tracks on the record.
This was one of the beats we got from Bangzy after he sent the initial slew. I wasn’t really sure how to approach it or what to write on it, but I actually had a dream that this was the flow and the subject matter. I came in, wrote and recorded with OV the next day. Nuts!
We needed a killer hook for it and had just finished working on the 48hrs collaborative project we did with Monster Florence and friends including Marcello Spooks. He came by the lab and dropped a killer hook for us.
It’s just a real fun party track. I think the album was getting pretty deep and introspective so we needed to wave it out a bit ha. Eyyyyy…
We’d hollered at Flux Pavilion to work on some music for the album in its very early infancy and this one of the joints he sent. I think it was also one of the first to be recorded but also the last to be finished. A friend of ours in the States linked us up with OG Maco. He recorded his verse in Amsterdam on tour but we got to meet up with him when he came through London. Black Josh came on board for this track the same day he recorded his verse on Sauce. I think he’d been writing it in the cab on the way down and he dropped it for us and we were like “nnaaaaaahhh B, that’s getting recorded right nooooowwwww!!!”. Too damn sweg.
Flux Pavilion: Foreign Beggars are legitimately one of my favourite hip hop acts of all time, I’m really stoked to be part of 22 Karma, it feels like a really fresh project and they have really stepped forwards Into a new chapter. It’s dope as fuck.
OK, we first spoke to Feed Me about working on the record at Northern Bass a couple years back and sessioned the barebones of the beat up at his studio. But with both of us being so hectic it took a while to get the track to its current form. We felt it was a real important track to speak about in the current political climate. There is a lot of anger against the establishment and the way things are these days. The Syrian refugee crisis, Brexit and all the racial profiling / stereotyping going on these days.. we couldn’t resist. This track is a banger. Can’t wait to play this live.
Another one of the earlier recorded tracks from the record. It’s produced by Hyroglifics and recorded by Jocelyn at the Relentless Studio in Soho. We were worked on a cool joint for his record and wrote this one of the back of it. Scorsayze is a living legend in the rap game for us, so it was a real honour to get to finally work with him. He was supposed to feature on our debut album Asylum Speakers but it never came about so to reach out to him and he be down to work was a real blessing.
Hyroglifics: Visitations was the first track I wrote when I moved to Brixton in 2015. It was also my first time going to Glastonbury Festival, where I ended up bumping into Pav whilst wandering around the campsite at 5am. We kept in touch and a few months later they invited me down for a session at the Relentless studio. I showed them a couple beats I was working on at the time and they were keen to get involved on the instrumentals of Persuade and Visitations.
This joint was produced by Dag Nabbit, who not only produced the first two Foreign Beggars albums but actually founded the group alongside OV in Dubai back in the day. It had been a long while since we worked together so we were itching to get something done. We got Josh Bevan in on the intro and outro hooks and it’s just such a positive vibe track. We felt it was the perfect way to end the record and is especially something we wanted to put together for the fans who’ve been with us since day one.
Dag Nabbit: I think this track was the first track chosen for the album, and is ironically now the last track on the playlist… It was written some time ago on my Virus. It was winter and snowing outside. I was playing with the Virus and I made the sound used for the chords. To me it sounded a bit like when you just break the surface of the snow, it’s crunchy and soft. Anyway, I then put down the chord progression and everything else fell into place pretty quickly. It’s been about 10 years since our last collab so it meant a lot to hear the track with the Beggars for the first time and of course they killed it…Then a couple weeks later Orifice slyly dropped the version with Josh and I was like wow! Josh really brought it all together.So good.