Dabbla - Year Of The Monkey

RnB/Hip Hop | Sunday 11th September 2016 | Phil

Ten years in the making, ‘The Year Of The Monkey’ serves as a testament to Dabbla’s dedication to the ungodly slog that is forging a career in the often poorly paid UK scene, through all the highs and lows that a decade of living it up in The Big Smoke brings.

The first track on the album is a pleasant surprise. The mellow, twinkly, zen-like atmosphere of ‘Everything’ is a far cry from the rowdy, bolshy in your face beats Dabbla usually appears on. The bars in ‘Everything’ sum up his approach almost perfectly; no nonsense and firm in his beliefs, even if some find them offensive, whilst all along staying true to both himself and the positive, non-materialistic, all inclusive roots of hip hop.



Other highlights were Randeer with its rasping Asian pipe loop and trance-inducing tabla drums only bettered by the hilarious Cockney hook while Butterfly, a track produced by Sumgii over ten years ago, is itself an absolute gem of a beat, so much so that it would be fit for any U.S East Coast legend. Funnily enough, Dabbla dedicated many of the bars on the track to a certain Mr. Nasir Jones.


Stupid is more than likely named so because the Ghosttown beat is so damn raw that it is just stupid, whilst on ‘Get It’ Dabbla demonstrates why he's known for his powerful hard-hitting delivery along with High Focus’ other double-time specialist, Ocean Wisdom. With features from Dirty Dike, Dubbledge, Jam Baxter and LDZ’s smoothest operator Cobes, the album is packed with undeniable UK style.



From quality one line flows to multisyllabic tongue-twisters, Dabbla quickly switches from a toilet humour loving, grumpy North London potty mouth to a humble man who deeply appreciates the world around him and is concerned with human spirituality.

The short length of many of the tracks and a selection of amusing skits help break up the album well and set the album up to be worthy as an entire listening experience, with a wide variety of beat styles to indulge in including a few Golden Age style beats and some absolute neck-breakers which will turn clubs upside down. 

Looking at the tracks on the album as a whole, some listeners may feel that Dabbla’s debut lacks coherence, or fails to stick to a particular theme. Perhaps, however, that was never the intention. For me, the arguably disjointed but clearly diverse selection of beats and vibes sit most well with Dabbla’s explosive and unpredictable persona. Couple this with his hugely spontaneous rap style and you have a record which fittingly represents the man and his outlook on life.


Initially hearing Dabbla, it could be easy to assume that he's a relatively run of the mill emcee. It is not until you spend a bit more time appreciating his bars that you can glean his versatility in terms of both delivery and content, something that is abundantly clear for all when listening to Year of The Monkey.

In contrast to other High Focus artists such as The Four Owls, Dabbla projects a far more light-hearted and self-deprecating approach. It is in this respect he is undoubtedly a choice addition to the already fierce High Focus roster. If Ocean Wisdom is High Focus’ emerging hotshot, then Dabbla is surely their best kept secret.

‘Year of The Monkey’ is the perfect way to get to know Dabbla better, especially if you are a fan of his work as part of LDZ, Problem Child or Dead Players. A must for all of those High Focus fanatics that exist out there and, for anyone else, a great  example of a quality British hip-hop record with undeniable originality and proper North London swagger at its heart with a few certified club bangers on it to boot.

Go cop Year Of The Monkey. It is out now and is available via Dabbla’s Bandcamp and