Album Review: Baron Von Alias – Rebel Of The Magna Carta

Baron Von Alias has achieved more in his career than most of his hip-hop peers from the North East of England. As a solo act, one-half of The Great & The Magnificent, and part of Big Beat Bronson, the rapper-producer has performed at major festivals, attained regular BBC Radio One airplay and actually signed a record deal.

The word signed is key, here. Baron Von Alias raps “never signed on the dotted line what a faux pas” on ‘Rebel Of The Magna Carta’ single ‘Peak.’ Joining myself on TheRootMusic show on Sunderland community radio station Spark, alongside (The Magnificent) MistaBreeze; Baron discussed the fact he had actually signed a contract. The pair laughed at artists who claimed to have signed to a label, without having any actual legal document.

Despite these achievements, Baron (and Breeze, who we’ll get to in a review of duo’s collaborative album ‘Rebirth.Life.Death.’) is constantly overlooked. On ‘Peak’, the rapper-producer also known as Steesh raps “What am I but a man judged by achievements.” It’s a typical tale within North East hip-hop. In my experience, the moment an artist begins to attract any form of recognition beyond the local rap scene, jealousy creeps in.

Sermstyle’s crossover success prodcuing for Kesha, Pitbull & Nicki Minaj is spoken about with tones of bitterness. The hard work put in by Kay Greyson to attain regular support slot over the past twelve months is sneered at as though she doesn’t deserve it. Similarly, Baron’s success, particularly within the Big Beat Bronson era isn’t given its due respect.

In conversations with others within the scene, people have openly admitted to not wanting to show support for Baron because of the pop sounds Big Beat Bronson created, or because of the costumes worn in certain music videos which appeal to a younger crowd. Baron indirectly counteracts this in his music, again, in ‘Peak’, BVA raps: “If I take your lead, I’ll be rhyming about weed, and I’d never make it further than the offy down the street.”

The bitterness towards Baron’s success has in turn, made him feel bitter about the local scene. It’s evident in conversations we’ve had in the past, and throughout this album, which is produced entirely by Arhat, that Baron has developed a disdain for local rappers who judge him for successes they failed to attain. It’s become something of a cruth for Baron, however.

Throughout his solo work and releases as one-half of The Great & The Magnificent there are a plethora of verses directed towards the local hip-hop circuit in Newcastle and surrounding areas. Whilst individually each of these verses hit home, sometimes there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Alongside ‘Peak’, ‘Grow Up’ is a stand-out track on the album, but there are other tracks pretty much reflecting the same message, in the same way.

Whether he’s doing it consciously or not, maybe it’s time for Baron to stop focusing on showing off his past achievements to a scene that will shamefully never pay him the respect he deserves. Having known Steesh personally in my time as The Great & The Magnificent’s manager, I know he has a lot more he could talk about. There are hints of that on ‘Rebel Of The Magna Carta’ and I hope it’s a sign of things to come.

‘A Long Time In The Grave’ pays tribute to Baron’s disdain for gullible idiots and superiority complexes on the internet and particularly social media. Baron taps into failed relationships with ‘Without You’ featuring Scott Dolan, who performs alongside The Great & The Magnificent as their drummer at live gigs. ‘Inhale’ is another album highlight which discusses the rapper-producer’s self-sabotaging battle with mental health: “Lyrics hit me like epiphany’s” is a particularly beautiful line.

It’s a shame so many individuals within the local hip-hop scene have written off Baron Von Alias. ‘Rebel Of The Magna Carta’ is a hip-hop album through and through. There are moments of Baron flexing his creativity as he experiments with harmonies, but don’t let that distract you from the content. Particularly towards the second half, ‘Rebel Of The Magna Carta’ is a very mature rap album brushing past sensitive topics with sincere, honest vulnerability.

Even though this review starts with an analysis of Baron’s retorts to the local scene, once you dig deeper this album is about so much more. If only so-called ‘real’ hip-hop heads give this album a chance, they’ll realise ‘Rebel Of The Magna Carta’ is as real as it gets.

I still maintain that there’s a little too much focus on past accomplishments, and in fact the second half of the album only highlights that. ‘Peak’, ‘Grow Up’ and ‘On The Meter’ are each exceptional, but in terms of a full length project, I’m much more interested in the meatier ‘Inhale’ and look for more of the same.

With ‘Rebel Of The Magna Carta’, Baron Von Alias proves his talent is versatile. Even as he has crafted a terrific track record with more accessible, pop-friendly songs, this album showcases Baron can still go bar-for-bar and rappity-rap with the best of them.

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