For any fan of UK Rap or its spiritual descendant UK Drill, there will always be a slight rush of excitement when clicking on a new track and hearing, “SRB Separation Confirmed”. Nine times out of ten, you know that you are about to listen to an instrumental of the highest quality. The production will normally be accompanied by a veteran MC like Youngs Teflon, new generation drillers i.e. 67, or to the casual UK Rap fan, more obscure affiliates such as Skwilla Da Gorilla and Papi. As much as you’d focus on their verses, you’d give equal appreciation to the beat, crafted by the expertise of Carns Hill. A legend in the game who has been making music from the tender age of fifteen, Carns has consistently released material with a myriad of sounds, constantly innovating as a musician by evolving from a brilliant but raw bedroom producer to a multi instrumentalist and sound design expert. His discography credits are endless.
The classic OT mixtapes from 2009-2012 are a primer in mid to late noughties road rap, an in-house south west London affair that would be followed by individual efforts from many of collaborators featured on the tape. From Young Tef’s ‘Grown Man Ting’ series and Blade Brown’s ‘Bags & Boxes’ trilogy of yesteryear, to developing the 67 sound that permeates the bubbling UK Drill scene today, Carns Hill has already woven his name into the fabric of UK Rap history.
As a producer, you normally take the backseat in terms of recognition, a harsh reality for those tasked with creating what’s arguably the most integral ingredient of any song making recipe. However times are changing, and with the rise and rise of beatmakers like Metro Boomin and 40 in North America, we are seeing a similar trend in the UK with the likes of Jae 5, Steel Banglez and of course, Carns Hill gaining more visibility. We saw this especially with the strong reception to his ‘Family First’ project, which dropped in early 2017, and nearly a year after that release, ‘CH’ has blessed us with two more tapes, one of which being ‘SRB Separation Confirmed: The Blueprint’.
In typical Carns fashion, the project gives the listener a mélange of sounds to digest throughout, with variation in drum pattern, melody and energy across each track. There are high-octane songs at the beginning of Blueprint with ‘Bricks Came’ vocalled by Section Boyz and the chaotic cacophony of ‘Top 3’ which features Youngs Teflon. Whilst the introductory track is defined by Swift’s exuberant bellows during the chorus, the latter is just another affirmation of Tef’s self proclaimed, and rightful, standing in the Rap game.
Carns’ signature sinister and menacing sound can be found on two relatively contrasting tracks in ‘Roll & Shoot’ featuring Zone 2, and ‘2 Up’ featuring two more long term collaborators in Blade Brown and SDG. ‘Roll & Shoot’ lends to the ear of the younger generation and can comfortably be described as Drill, whereas ‘2 Up’ is sonically tailor-made for Blade, with high-pitched electronic keys paired with his trademark growling vocals.
‘Never Left’ and ‘Free Da Gz’ almost feel like a throwback to Carns’ soulful sound, although both are very different in mood. ‘Never Left’ which features 67’s Monkey, Nana Damz, and once again Blade Brown, uses electric guitar riffs which can just about be heard over the snare rolls and drum patterns. ‘Free Da Gz’, has a melancholic feel with the flute synth, and although the lyrics don’t necessarily match the beat, Reekz MB and Dimzy both deliver on their verses.
‘Real Savage’, takes a complete detour in terms of sound, as Carns manages to inject Bashment into his project whilst also seemingly sampling Nas’ Affirmative Action. Decky’s vocals are crisp and fitting over Carns’ bouncy instrumental, who cleverly fades out the beat for K-Trap and SJ, with the former providing one of the best verses on the tape.
Arguably, the two standout tracks on Blueprint are ‘What Do U Want From Me’, and ‘Freestyle’. ‘What Do U Want From Me’, possesses a piercing and addictive melody, less dark than what is normally expected of Carns. Anticipation builds from the opening of the song, and Southside Jb is the perfect foil to CH’s instrumental, creating a memorable hook with strong clarity that will no doubt be recited by fans.
‘Freestyle’, is the kind of song that would be played in the ultimate scene of an action film, prior to the protagonist preparing to encounter his/her enemy. The melody has a thick texture that effervesces as Carns’ trademark tag rings out at the beginning of the song. As the blistering drum pattern kicks in, Skrapz enters the fray with his hard-hitting delivery and effortless flow. Carns’ strategic choices in fading out the beat, works perfectly with Skrapz’s lyrical content, and somehow manages to make an already short song, full of variety. ‘Keep It Trill’ rounds of the tape, with female singer/rapper P-Nut providing vocals for the eerie beat, as Nana Damz and Papi smoothly flow over the instrumental.
For the regular listener of UK Rap and Drill, Carns Hill is already a household name in their eyes. Having proven himself repeatedly as one of the best producers in the game over a long period of time, it seems almost absurd to question whether he belongs in the upper echelon of producers in the country, not only in Rap, but across all genres. The content of the songs he produces unfortunately means that he won’t receive the daytime promotion that a Jae 5 or Steel Banglez would receive.
However he will always receive the respect of those that have become accustomed to hearing his music, because they are cognizant of the fact that Carns Hill never fails to keep innovating. The Blueprint is the perfect example of this – he uses an assortment of genre influences across the project yet the listener can hear that it is the Carns Hill sound. Something that is also endearing is his choice of artists for the projects. They are mostly people he has been working with for years, and the majority have grown with him as artists. His loyalty to his peers is laudable, and although he has partnered with up and comers like Zone 2 and Southside Jb, it is demonstrative of his character to build with his day one collaborators. In a nutshell, Carns Hill is a UK treasure and SRB Separation Confirmed: The Blueprint is just another piece of evidence that proves this statement. The Darkprint goes even further in doing so…