Webster’s dictionary describes the word ‘Ringmaster’ as: “one in charge of performances in a ring (as of a circus)” and “a supervisor or moderator especially of a performance or presentation”. Websta’s dictionary describes the word ‘Ringmaster’ as: “Specifik” when it comes to this album. ‘The Ill Circus’ is fully controlled by Specifik, he’s the man in charge of putting this whole circus together and he’s enlisted some big names to keep us entertained. I’m not sure how the process of pairing artists with beats went about, but, it works really well. Every piece of production fits superbly with each artists skills, whether it is down to tempo, ambience or even vocal amplitude it all just fits, what came first, choosing the artist for the beat or creating the beat for the artist, I’m not sure, but it’s spot on.
There are 17 tracks in total on this album, which includes an ‘Intro’ and a ‘Skit’ as well as a few shorter tracks (some of which I really wish were longer) so you’ll have to forgive the long review, there’s a lot to discuss given the amount of artists involved as well.
We’ll start on the first full length track entitled ‘I’m Naked’ featuring Ghettosocks, NiLLa, Timbuktu and DJ Tones (a man in demand). On first listen I felt it was just OK, but, by the time I gave it a third listen I was hooked. Laid back vocals accompany a mid tempo beat which is a break from the norm and it ended up really growing on me. All artists on the track do the job you would expect them to do, a great start. After a short ‘Skit’ we have ‘Harambe Kwame’ featuring two legends of the UK Hip Hop scene, Junior Disprol (Fleapit and Dead Residents) and Krash Slaughta (II Tone Committee). This track had me at hello, one thing I love in hip hop is funky guitar loops, pair that with Junior Disprol’s brilliantly unique sound and it is a certain hit in my books, I absolutely love this track, probably my favourite on the album.
Earlier I mentioned how I wish some tracks were longer and the next track ‘Balance’ featuring Rola is what I was talking about at just over a minute long, it is both superb and frustrating, just as I was getting into it, it ended, gutted. ‘Keep On Steppin’ is next featuring B-Line affiliate ‘Whirlwind D’ and this is a perfect example of the matching process. Specifik’s knowledge really shines through on this, because the production accompanies Whirlwind D’s vocals brilliantly. Lyrically, this is superb, Whirlwind D giving a positive message about being yourself and the rhymes just flow so well.
Drums become heavier and the bass becomes darker on the next track as another B-Line affiliate ‘Chrome’ grabs the mic with Sy Matic on the cuts. Another quality track, which given the artists involved you wouldn’t expect anything less. ‘Sickness Scripture Pt 2’ features Kid Lyrical, the Australian emcee most known for his work with Blades (of Hades) and DJ Jabbathakut. Another dark sounding track that I’m still not sure about, I’ve listened to it a few times and can’t decide whether I like it or not (probably just me). The album continues with ‘Blade Runner’ featuring Cosm and DJ Jabbathakut, this track is superb, on my first listen I made a note (I always make notes on first listen when I’m reviewing a release) which simply said “great vocal, great beat”, that is now “excellent vocal, outstanding beat”, love it. ‘Back To Back Burners’ features Sol Zalez and I must admit that this is the first time I have heard of him, but, I don’t think it is going to be my last. ‘You Know I Get Down’, again featuring Sy Matic is a brilliant, but, short DJ track and another track that you wish could be a bit longer.
To be honest once I finished listening to the whole album the first time around, I went straight back to this next track, ‘We Come Around’ featuring Uncle Mic Nitro and DJ Tones. I honestly believe that there aren’t many emcees out there that can rhyme as precise and clear as Uncle Mic Nitro. At a higher tempo than the other tracks on the album this is one of the stand out tracks for me. Following on is ‘Supposed To Do’ featuring Doozer and Crystal Carter, this is probably the most commercial sounding track on the album, but, that’s not a bad thing because it is a really nice track. The beat (drums) reminds me of slower tempo SL Troopers ‘Movement’ for some reason and flows really well. Next is the final shorter track that I really wish was longer, ‘Escapology’ features Iceski (The Criminal Minds, Iceski & Merlin) killer tune.
‘Dis-May’ is a political track with Figure Of Speech dropping the vocals this time around. Not one of my favourite tracks on the album, but, again, not one that you would skip past either. ‘No Hatchet’ sees Specifik reconnect with Project Cee. The first time I heard Specifik’s work was back in 2002 when I purchased a piece of vinyl off Ebay entitled ‘Resurrecting Vibes’ by Specifik & Project Cee. I soon realised that these guys were old school when I heard their brilliant tune called ‘Return To Burn’ (which I featured on a Heroes Mix Swap). Another one on the album that is a killer tune, Project Cee does a fine job over a clear beat that gives a nod to ‘Peter Piper’. Finally we have ‘Family’ with B-Line members Carpetface and Uncle Mic Nitro dropping rhymes over an up-tempo beat that will have your head nodding straight away.
Despite this album containing many different personalities, everybody involved seemed to be reading from the same brief. Quality production throughout from Specifik, who really showcases his talent’s on this album and with outstanding cuts and vocals thanks to the help of many outstanding artists, this is an essential release for any collection.
From first hearing of Specifik in 2002, 17 years later and everybody involved in this scene, should, by now, know his name and own this album….quality.