Expand your Vision with BLAYnoculars: The Vision Album Review

“It was a clear black night, a clear white moon Blay was on those shady streets trying to consume…” chances are if Warren G saw Blay walking towards him on a clear black night he wouldn’t be able to regulate the situation he’d cross the road, turn and run looking for snoop to save him from the Grim(e) reaper that is Blay.

The North London MC and producer is often cited as overlooked by his fans and fellow artists and when you examine the body of Blay Vision’s (we’ll call him Blay from now on!) work it is a statement that unfortunately holds some truth. Blays’ badges of honour span a variety of projects including his collaborations with prolific producers ZDot on the cruddy banger ‘Innit’ and the superior Spooky produced ‘Duppy’ (The Duppy brings the mandem to ‘The Vision’ album! Trust me.) there’s his fire freestyle with Preditah where they issue a health warning to any mans who are stupid enough to test them and Blay definitely looked like he was affecting Nottingham MC Fangol by spinning him in 2013’s Lord of the Mics clash with scathing bars attacking Fangol’s missing hairline. His long time affiliation with the track suit mafia BBK has led the scene to conclude that Blay will blow up but it’s just a matter of when.

With 3 Mixtapes in his back catalogue Blay ‘Broke the ice’ with his first Mixtape in 2008, he seemed to go ‘Blind’ in 2010 and thankfully regained his sight to give us 2013’s epic mixtape ‘Welcome to vision gang’ in which he spits the standout lyrics “I can’t live like a drone in the system, invisible chains tryna latch to my wisdom” on the autobiographical ‘I must’ he experiments spitting over guitar riffs (‘Grind’), he sings (‘Steal the show’) and produces the forlorn instrumental of ‘Forest’ and the hype instrumental of ‘Zan’ giving a clear indication of the landscapes Blay’s skills are able to span.

Amazingly while Blay has been spittin heat since 2009 he has simultaneously produced some of the most emotive instrumentals I’ve heard such as the playful adventure of ‘Bard’s Theme’ illustrated perfectly with online battle game ‘League of Legends’, the uplifting ‘Ride’ and the sensual electronic lovers rock of ‘Giant’ Blays’ bars may pack pure heat but his production has heart which I imagine is a tricky balance to strike between the two ventures of MC and producer.

Blay started to display a penchant for cemetery settings with his Halloween on wax EP series ‘The Haunted’, ‘The Haunting’ serves as an eerie intermission between ‘The Haunted’ and ‘The Haunted 2’ EP’s. The Haunted has Blay announcing he’s no longer Blay-Z and wants to be known as simply Blay. He spits confidently over the banshee screams and ghostly yelps littered throughout the EP, he also shouts out his bwoy Skepta and speaks of his fondness for Japanese culture which I’m sure provides hours of discussion between himself and Skepta. Blay then dropped his second EP ‘The Haunting’ (a sort of bridge for fans to cross over to the haunted house to EP no. 3) as a free release – the 6 track EP saw Blay get greazy when spittin’ about other Grime mans ‘Funeral,’ he also alludes to the horror film ‘Last house on the left’ when he requests on the hook that we “Don’t even call me an MC no more call me the last house on the left.” ‘The Haunted 2’ plays as though we have made it to the haunted house and we’re at Blay’s nightmarish mercy allowing him to go crazy and release his ‘crud’ on us – the defenceless victims. The EP welcomes back Lay-z who is the only artist to feature on all 3 EP’s. Blay’s flow is at its most fierce here he’s not playing and I felt wounded, winded and haunted after listening to it, which means Blay bossed it and brought the madness as intended. Standout track here is the pure filth that is ‘Myth’ ft. Flirta D, Shorty and Skepta who all lacerate the track with fury; Blay snarls “Every tune I’ve heard of yours is shit, run your mouth you get boxed in the ribs” and taunts “When I wrote your name on you tube, MYTH. When I wrote your name on google, MYTH. When I wrote your name on iTunes, MYTH..”

untitled (2)

If the haunted EP series was a night in a haunted house Blay transports us to shutter island meets Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ where ghouls and zombies perch atop their coffins and emerge from their crypts baying for blood because it is eternally midnight here where ‘The vision’ is impaired by cobwebs and bats as you try to find a safe place to hide on this island filled with terror. ‘The Vision’ is Blay’s first full length album and it’s interesting that he’s chosen to make an instrumental album as his debut which seems to further explore the darkness Blay visited in ‘The haunted’ EP series. The album is sinister, atmospheric and evokes a ‘he’s behind you’ sense of dread, I’ve got to admit I found myself glancing over my shoulder a few times when catching the vibe of tracks such as ‘DT Dutty’ a tense and mournful track punctuated with clanks straight from the graveyard. ‘Leng’ is a frantic dart through the woods trying to create as much distance between you and the Blair witch whilst trying to avoid standing on wilting flowers beneath your feet only these flowers come complete with sharks’ teeth on this strange island where Blay is boss. When ‘Mist’ descends it’s as though you are about to be grabbed by monsters hiding in a thick fog whilst a flute plays full of tense warning. What struck me about these instrumentals was that they all sound horror movie ready as though the makers of ‘Friday 13th’ or ‘poltergeist’ requested that Blay make a film score for their rebooted franchise. If ‘Black Mirror’ or ‘Stranger Things’ were looking for someone to score their respective series’ then this is Blays’ application form! ‘Myth’ is pure terror – it’s sparse with a tense melody and a plinky plonky overtone which made me feel like a nest of tarantulas were about to burst out at me from my gas fire and go on the attack!! It’s almost as though Blay can sense his listeners are about to dial the out of hours doctor to sedate them so they can sleep that night so he gives us the brilliant and bubbly Grime riddim ‘Moving’ with a comedy spring being pulled back sound effect. ‘Dun know’ sounds like a punchy race against the clock in a platform computer game. ‘Blockz’ sees a return to tense and spine tingling unease of previous tracks but sounds sludgy as though Blay’s ‘victim’ is losing the will to escape this sinister shutter island; there are quirky shouts of ‘Go!’ sprinkled throughout urging the victim to keep going and find a way out. ‘These Guys’ feels like instant claustrophobia with its convoluted organs and one note piano riff which is not dissimilar to nails down a blackboard. One of my favourite tracks on the album ‘Ain’t gonna do’ plays like the beast that lives beneath is rising from the depths and needs to feast! It has a double time trip or glitch sound effect which could be our lone islanders heart skipping a beat in sheer panic or them tripping up over one of those shark toothed flowers as they try to run as fast as they can. The menacing ‘Skeng’ is a warning that boy better know rounds are about to be sprayed from the AK so you need to duck. The creepy ‘Never cared’ is also full of sorrow and longing. The first half of ‘The Vision’ plays like all out – turn your hair white with fright horror, whilst the second half carries a sense of impending doom which gains momentum and builds until you feel chilled to the bone. Blay’s omnipresent fondness for Japanese culture is found on the vibes of ‘Gone mad.’ Blay has created a complete cinematic experience with this instrumental album and has packed it with scares, screams, chills and thrills. These beats would even have veteran producer Swizz Beatz, who is responsible for bring the ‘Hammer Horror’ sound to Hip Hop diving under the covers and flicking on his night-light so as not to conjure up the ghouls from Blay’s vision.

Cammy Thomas