A couple days ago while digging in the digital crates with a friend in the ends I found myself on the Soundcloud of Producer, MC and certified Grime OG ‘Zeph Ellis’, formerly known as Dot Rotten (also formerly known as Young Dot). It looked as if in the last 3 week’s he’d suddenly upped the work rate and the productions levels match.
His new music was a far cry from the material I came across the last time I was on his Soundcloud early last year which resulted in the post ‘A Real Rotten Riddim’ that lead to a heated exchange between us on Twitter. The post was a somewhat disgruntled look at his project the ‘Minsane EP’ , which in my humble opinion was a generic uninspiring regurgitation of the contemporary rap sound that seriously lacked the level of creativity and style that you’d expect from a producer of his caliber. What always made his music special was that element of emotion that infused even his more aggressive Grime beats, and his music at the point when I wrote that post had pretty much digressed into generic anything ‘Trap’ music.
Needless to say, he didn’t like my write up and came with some strongly worded remarks, to the effect of “Whatever journalist wrote that needs to get head shot!”, and some other stuff about him not being a Grime artist; which is strange considering he used to address himself as the “Biological Father of Grime”. Anyway, based on the venom and maniacal aggression in the extreme way he reacted on Twitter I assumed I wasn’t alone in my opinion, or alone in sharing it with him. This suspicion was then confirmed when I discovered 3 or 4 days later on GrimeForum that he’d changed his name. I couldn’t help but feel like the straw that broke the camels back, especially with all the comments hating on the same music I’d critiqued previously.
In an interview in October last year with YouTube Interview series NFTR (Not For The Radio) he discussed the topic of his name change:
“I feel like there’s a stigma that comes with Dot (Rotten). When I do Dot (Rotten), when I’m barrin out, when i’m doing Grime track etc, I feel limited. So with my new thing that i’m doing now, it’s more i’m just open to do what I like.. I want a fresh start..”
Considering the backlash he was getting from his fans that was a smart move and I don’t know whether it’s the new name or maybe revised approach to his production, but his new music has regained his signature style with the emotive quality it once lacked.
It’s 2016 now, it’s a new year and a new start, so I thought given the fact that I slated him when he wasn’t bringing the heat, it’s only right I salute him now the he’s back on top of things.
Anyway, I think I’ve done enough introductory preamble, so allow me to present some of the most impressive tracks I came across while sliding through his Soundcloud.
This first track, despite having some of the qualities that I used to describe the music he was making that I didn’t like before really delivers musically. A stand out production featuring a sample from a Bob Marley interview to complement the atmospheric vibe.
“Every law is illegal..” – Bob Marley
This next track is a sluggish Hip Hop beat that like the majority of Zeph Ellis’ new music, is showered with soul and layered with harmony to create a deeper vibe.
Although I kicked things off with some Trap/Hip Hop shit, that’s not to say that he hasn’t been coming with the Gully Grime productions. Teaming up with D Double on the vocals. ‘Lyrical Killer’ is a certified merkers! Sampling the classic ‘Rhythm & Gash’ this ones a high energy skankers.
“I’m that lyrical killer, go in the war come out the winner..” – D Double E
On top of putting his spin on the contemporary Hip Hop sound in his recent productions, plus delivering high energy Grime beats, he’s also providing some soulful selections in the RnB department with ‘The Aubrey Graham Starter Park’ EP . A selection of 7 instrumentals inspired by, and remixes of, the Music of man like Drake.
This ones abit of a progressive ting so listen and allow the vibes to grow as the emotion builds.
In addition to the D Double E track, Zeph Ellis has had his hand in another Grime pie in the form of the beat ‘ACXD BXMB’ the instrumental for Kano’s banger ‘Garage Skank’, which was released late last year.
The intrumental is part of another one of his EP’s from the last month entitled ‘This Side of Grime Vol. 3’ a project which included the instrumental for the ‘D Double E – Lyrical Killer’ track and a few other unreleased belters, including not only the original but this alternative version to Kano’s Garage Skank instrumental.
Although the productions are firing on all cylinders, there isn’t much vocal work from Zeph because according to his NFTR interview he’s focusing his efforts on production for now. That being said, there is this one. Entitled ‘RXNGS’, an uncoventional track that seems to merg the vocal swagger of contemporary Trap music with a 16 bit experimental sound. The rugged lo fi effect makes it sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard but still manages to retain a contemporary quality. The lyrics are decent, the vocal delivery is abstract and the instrumental is strong, with the link between the Sonic sample (for the rings reference) and the theme of the song being Gold Rings, this track, more so than any of the other vocal offerings displays some depth of creativity and artistry; which is always nice.
Considering all of this music has landed online in the last 3 weeks it’s looking like Zeph Ellis is on form, flying a new flag with a new lease of life and an updated sound for the contemporary landscape. It would be nice to have some vocal tracks that match the productions levels so we can see some releases that contend with the rest of the heavy hitters in the UK, but we’ll just have to hold tight and enjoy the power productions for the time being.