Since I first met Whirlwind D back in 2017 at the first ever Rope-a-Dope in Bristol, he has become a good friend and one of my personal favourite emcees in the UK. Beyond that, and something that has to be noted in this special year for Hip Hop culture, Whirlwind D has immense knowledge on the history of Hip Hop music and more, which he brings to the airwaves and pages of such publications as Record Collector.
There is something special about any new release from the man from B-Line/Solid n Mind/Tru-Tone Records and Liberty grooves. There is a depth of feeling that you do not always get with all the music that you listen to. When you put on a Whirlwind D release you know this is something you can listen to anywhere, with anyone, and there is an anticipation that every track will speak to you on one or even many levels, be it just the fun lovin’ musical side or reaching in and tweaking the very nerves of a deep emotional link you have to the subject matter. Whirlwind D truly delivers music for the masses.
LIBRA promises to tick all the boxes musically and vocally on what is expected to be his final long player. LIBRA is also an album of two parts, one that symbolises the two sides to anything, more on that as we go along. Featuring production from Specifik, Djar One, Smoove, Farma G, Franky Roar, Mr Fantastic (ae Productions), Lewis Parker and Simon S, plus guest appearances from Farma G, Junior Disprol, Chrome, Specifik and Lewis Parker, with cuts coming from Specifik, Jazz T, Miracle, Mr Fantastic and Djar One; this album promises to be one of the standout releases of 2023.
So, please join me as we cast our heads to the night sky and the stars of the constellation of Libra and allow the energy of those stars to merge with music…
We begin with side A Grey Matter and the Introduction. With Specifik on production this thumping intro to be just that and nothing more but, alongside all samples that introduce Whirlwind D, there is this little guitar sample that just adds a little depth and creates this sense of anticipation that slowly builds across these fifty-two seconds, and that anticipation is soon rewarded. The guitar and drum heavy vibe of When It’s Fast, features Djar One on Production and Specifik on the cuts, and gives you this up-tempo funk sound that is the perfect template for D to drop a celebration track about everything that is Hip Hop but, especially those beats and rhymes that are fast, and D matches that celebration of those up-tempo vibes with his lyrical flow; where he brings intelligent words delivered with pace. This one has you bouncing from the get-go. Specifik and Djar One return on the next track but, this time their roles are reversed with Specifik on production and Djar One on the cuts. The laid-back vibe of drums, bass and keys on Sambuca creates this sound which seems to have this ‘calm before the storm’ air about it. Here D spins the kind of rhymes that bring a smile, it’s all about getting hyped up for the live show and keeping that fire lit with a taper of the liquid kind. Anyone who has been to Rope-A-Dope can tell you that that Sambuca often features; the firey liquid burns its way down, giving the warmth and internal strength to perform with gusto and engage the crowd throughout. Now the anxiety is out the way, and we are suitably hyped up, it’s time for that Everyday Hustle with Whirlwind D, Djar One on production and Specifik on the cut. Brining that Hip Hop funk vibe with drums, bass, guitar and keys, the tempo and energy switches up once more. Don’t expect to have chance to take a breath before the bridge as D keeps the bars coming at pace as he relates how it is to be out there every day, work, rest, and play, doing what you gotta do before finding the space to think, write and record. The daily grind we all have done, will do and expect, means that you do have get on that hustle to do the things you enjoy and often these things play second fiddle to the more mundane aspects of everyday life. There are times when the everyday grind gets too much and we have to take some time out, kick back and chill; and what better way to do that, than by soaking in the Ocean’s Breeze, with Djar One on production and cuts. The sounds of the ocean and gulls, mix with some funky drums and flute vibes to bring a sound that, initially, make to think this sounds like ‘Labels pt II’, now it might not be that but, it has the same infectious sound and feel-good factor, which gets the adrenaline pumping, especially when the horns drop in. Whirlwind D’s flow adds to that adrenaline-fuelled feel as he gives us line after line that creates a mental picture in your mind, of summer days, BBQs, and live music events, in fact everything that you love about that holiday vibe. Now, bearing in mind that we have just been thinking of the track ‘Labels’, what better way to round off the Grey Matter side of this album than with Labels (Smoove Extended Mix); I previously reviewed the 7” version of this when it was released as the B-Side to ‘Without Music’ in 2021, featuring Smoove on production and Specifik on cuts. With this one Smoove takes the original from 2018’s ‘Beats, Bit’s and Bobs’ and adds this awesome feel-good factor by bringing in strings, drums, and horns to give you this funky Hip Hop vibe mixed with a big band sound that not only ramps up the adrenaline already running through you but, is all one of the most infectious sounds around. Whirlwind D takes us on a trip through his early days in Hip Hop and how the various record labels and their releases would be a huge influence and even keep you hanging for what they would be dropping next, in fact the record labels became the things we looked for as much as the artists. Labels always brings back memories of flicking through the vinyl, tapes and CD’s in the various record stores in Southampton or trips up to London; when you didn’t recognise an artist you looked at the label or, very often with 12” singles in generic sleeves, it would be the label name that stood out. What a way to end the first side of the album, as this one is gonna stick in your head as you flick to the B-side…
As you spin the disc from one side to the other, the energy switches to one of Dark Matter, and a more serious air settles around you as the diamond needle ignites the Flames; produced and featuring Farma G, with Specifik on the cuts. Heavy drums, piano and guitar fills you ears with vibe that immediately causes your every nerve to tense and contract with an ominous vibe. Gone are the up-tempo flows as Whirlwind D and Farma G bring into stark and emotive focus, the pain and suffering that is caused by conflicts and war, be it on the streets or in another country. Every day the media brings us unsettling images and news of war, murder, and suffering; making the world outside of our own four walls to be a place where money is power, blood is just by-product and tears are the rivers and oceans. With those images of reality still stinging our eyes, Specifik brings production for False Prophet, with Jazz T on the cuts. Up-tempo drums, horns, keys, and an ominous bass sound brings a deep heavy vibe that makes want to listen to what’s coming next. Whirlwind D takes our focus from the outcome of conflict and puts it squarely on those in a position of power who purport to be our saviours. The leaders who talk the talk and bring slogans of hope, drawing in the masses with lies dressed up as fact, all in order to gain support and to be put in the ultimate position of power. Once they have the power, they look down on those who put their trust in them, using them as their stairway to gain more and more, while the lies and misrepresentation causes more and more suffering, poverty, and pain. The false prophet sits in a place where they never want anything, are never cold and never hungry, while those who follow starve, freeze, and so often pay the ultimate price. The realisations of the harsh reality of life around us, begins to permeate into our very soul; down into The Deep, where Franky Roar is on production and Miracle brings the cuts. The sound here multi-layered with pounding beats, percussion sounds and electronic vibes, together they create a dark raw soundscape for a posse style cut that sees Whirlwind D joined by Junior Disprol, Chrome and Specifik on the mic. The four emcees join forces to vocally expose and destroy those who sit in the racist far right-wing camps; those people who use the symbol of the St. Georges cross to promote sick racist, narrowminded views of a nazi-based white master race, where all other rases are subservient. These outdated and uneducated views only serve to hold the entire world back from standing together as one unified people, where all are accepted. Hip Hop culture has always promoted the understanding that we are all same colour underneath, something that is truly a foundation for a better world. With hope building inside us the tempo increases as Mr Fantastic brings the cuts and production of upbeat drums over a sampled vocal with bass, to fuel the adrenaline once more in a more positive way. The pace returns to D’s vocals too, this matches the up-tempo beat and the pounding of his feet and heart he breaks into a Sweat. It’s all about pushing yourself to be fit, be that physically or mentally, you have to exercise your body and mind to keep yourself in peak performance, or at least keeping yourself ready for the next challenge. As the light at the end of the tunnel approaches, the legendary figure of Lewis Parker steps up to guest and produce Lucky Number, alongside Specifik on the cuts. This was originally released on ae Productions back in 2022, which I reviewed at the time. The dark dystopian vibe that Lewis Parker brings sound wise, fits perfectly with the Dark Matter vibe, the multi-layered sound of drums, horns and guitar notes, among other elements, really draws you in with a whole cinematic soundtrack style sound. Vocally we find Whirlwind D and Lewis Parker speaking on those lucky numbers that we all gamble on in the hope it will bring us some good luck but, it’s really all about those in a place of power who are always rolling the dice, playing with the lives, hopes and dreams of the everyday person. We are not just the pawns in their games, we are steppingstones and blocks they use to build their empires, and let’s face it, if we want to be brutally honest, we are all expendable in the eyes of those who govern. The only true lucky number we have is that there is strength in numbers and if we all rise as one, we can turn the tide of luck in our favour, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The final track of the album looms which sees production from Simon S and cuts by Specifik on The Music (Dirty Mix), there is an interesting story behind this but, that’s one for Whirlwind D to tell. There is this raw sound of drums and horns that has that old dusty vinyl sound about it. We are finally out of the tunnel and back in the light as Whirlwind D spins more stories around what it is to have the music running through your mind, body, and soul, from the mind, via the pen, to the page and then on record to the stage. The mind of the artists creates the music we listen to, and when that music is created with genuine love of the sound, it helps bring energy and positive feelings as it connects with the listener. There is not much more to say but, if you truly feel the heart and soul of what has been put into the music you hear, it can’t help but uplift you and bring you true joy.
©S.Rider-Infinite Images 2019
Let me be perfectly honest here, it’s very hard to put into words how good this album is, in fact in trying to sum up what I felt overall, it was like I’m saying goodbye to an old friend, it actually brought up emotions that made me just stop for a minute. So, overall, what this said to me was this; all of us, as we journey through life, have moments we can look back on as key moments and artists will have a release that they look back on as the crowning achievement, something that defines their career, and I think that Libra is that defining moment for Whirlwind D!
LIBRA has this Yin Yang element to it that shows two sides of the same coin. On the one side you have the upbeat fun loving music that is uplifting for us all to listen to, brought to us on the Grey Matter side, then, with the Dark Matter side, you get the serious side of the music that reflects the harsh realities of life and working hard to provide for the family while still seeking to nurture the creative side that wants to bring good music to the world, and to uplift as much to inform and educate.
LIBRA has it all, it shows Whirlwind D as his peak creatively bringing every aspect of what he enjoys about music, to the forefront. Not only that but, everything here is delivered in a way that connects with the listener. It is easy for anyone hearing this to relate to everything that is laid out here, and not just that but, you can literally feel that connection, you can feel the love and dedication he has to giving the audience something truly entertaining and enjoyable, and does mean listening and understanding those harsh realities, because if you didn’t have those, you would not be able to truly understand the positive messages, you have to have balance and Whirlwind D delivers balance to the next level.
Part of what makes LIBRA so special is that Whirlwind D works with producers and artists who he respects and who are friends as much as they are guests. They all bring out the best in each other, you get the sense that this is really about family. I say that because if you have ever been to a Hip Hop event, a B-Line Recordings event and so on, there is that feeling that you are all part of one big family, something that is the essence of Hip Hop Culture and I feel that it is that essence which contributes to why this album is so special. That is also reflected in the album artwork from John Dyer, who has captured the concept of the album perfectly on the cover.
I had better round things up now or we’ll be here forever.
For me LIBRA is truly going to be one of the Hip Hop albums of 2023, hands down. I have no doubt it will become an instant classic as it has everything you could want from a Hip Hop album. I have heard the word, defining, used about this album but, I think it runs deeper than that, I really think this album shows creative excellence and a desire to give a lasting piece of art to the world that people will enjoy for as long as there is music…
I have to say it has been a true honour to have the chance to review this incredible album. My humble thanks to Whirlwind D for allowing me to review this album so early on, and for sending me one of the first copies to land.
LIBRA is released on 1st September through B-Line Recordings and Hip Hop Be Bop, so check the links below on the day...
I’m out, till next time,
Get your copy of LIBRA from Hip Hop Be Bop:
Whirlwind D on Bandcamp:
Whirlwind D on Facebook:
When Its Fast