The last time a team of this much talent came together they were labelled The Avengers. ‘High Beams’ is the first collaborative album from established NZ hip hop individuals Raiza Biza, Melowdownz and Illbaz aka High Beams.
Rappers Raiza Biza and Melowdownz set the scene with their uniquely recognisable vocals and delivery, while Illbaz provides the production through a mix of soulful, jazz-inspired instrumentals.
The trio has put together a cohesive seven-track album that is as captivating as it is thought-provoking. No track is wasted and each adds to the listening experience. Throughout the album Illbaz showcases his unique production skills, providing an eclectic production that mixes together a collection of horns, strings and drums. The expressive production style is reminiscent and seemingly inspired from some of the early jazz in New Orleans. This creates a diverse platform for Raiza Biza and Melowdownz to effortlessly lay down their smooth vocals.
Throughout ‘High Beams’, we are offered a variety of views and stories covering a wide array of subjects. Themes such as racial inequality and police oppression, as on Live Stream and Run Away, are balanced with looking at chasing girls and enjoying day to day living on Red Wine and Major.
While this diversity could be seen as the album not having a sense of direction, it instead does the opposite. The album title plays as a metaphor for things that are discarded or overlooked, and we can see it representing all angles of the trio’s life. IllBaz is Palestinian, Melodownz is Polynesian and Raiza Biza comes from Rwanda. Their diverse backgrounds shape the album’s diverse content into a true reflection of every day for this unlikely trio who have each experienced the plights of racial discourse.
Live Stream sets an impressive benchmark, Melowdownz opening the first verse on the album with the lines, ‘Polynesia is colonised, not once did they apologise.’ We can then see this idea come to fruition later in the song during the hook, where another NZ up-and-comer Teeks, hauntingly sings, ‘Can’t wipe the blood from your hands, no matter how far you stand, it’s too late you’ve been seen, this is the high beams.’ Although the album is not seen as a political project, lines like this often leave you rewinding to fully grasp what has been said.
The album continues to add variation and build energy through the diverse features placed among the tracks. Icon Che Fu provides the hook on Sky High, and Dirty from Eno x Dirty truly lives up to his name by dropping one of the rawest verses of the year on Outchea
As much as there are some hard-hittin, gritty political lines, there are also low key and enjoyable tracks about the everyday. Red Wine follows the story of a glamorous version of ‘Netflix and chill’, and Sky High is a feel good song about the come up.
There are tracks to get you thinking, tracks to get you excited, and tracks to sit back and cruise to. This diverse content comes together in a remarkably harmonious fashion to create a truly unique and cohesive album. Although ‘High Beams’ is relatively short at seven tracks, it feels longer, an exceptionally diverse and brilliantly put together album that is a pleasure to listen to from start to finish.