By Alex P80 Parks
California emcee Flashius Clayton and production duo Dirty Diggs link up for Flash’s sophomore project. The album is full of sharp lyricism over sample-based beats, skillfully placed drums and subtle effects, delivering a pure hip hop experience that showcases the talents of both emcee and producers. Fronto Fever Dreams is Flash’s official follow-up LP to his 2018 debut Wolf Moon.
While Flash is gifted at providing specific imagery and unique allusions in his rhymes, Dirty Diggs have been steadily doing rap production for over a decade, bolstering their ever-expansive Rolodex of emcees they’ve collaborated with. Diggs has a way of unearthing gems and also flipping even some well-known samples differently enough and incorporating additional elements to create new sonic textures.
Deeply Rooted Hiphop and Flashius Clayton recently connected as he was wrapping the album to discuss this project, his connection to Diggs and creating something he is truly proud of.
Flash: “This album means a lot to me. It was a long time coming. I went through a lot of rough terrain to be able to get this done.”
On the intro, Flash comes through larger than life over classical strings loops and booming drums. “That’s What I Heard” featuring Lissan’dro brings the thunder and doom with tense strings, blaring horns and rumbling bass. Dro lays his super grimy flow on this banger. On “Killing Field Guillotine,” Diggs provide a baroque harpsichord loop flipped all around as Flash provides his own verbal acrobatics. Diggs harness their inner RZA on “Red Envelopes” with wheezing and grunting martial arts sound bytes looped over a sawing instrumental. The vocal humming subtle effects and light percussion on “A Yukon Don” slows it down a bit, but not in terms of Flash’s intensity. “Golden Ratio” featuring Skunkz sports faded guitar loops interspersed with a jazzy loop. Skunkz has emerged as talent to watch for over the last year with his fiery verses.
Flash: “Golden Ratio is a “Takin Ya Cookies” sequel basically. Everything me and Skunkz do is a follow up of that joint to be honest.”
With a 70’s nod, “Cadillac Flying Saucers” provides a funky combo of psychedelic deep synth notes and subtle guitar loops. “Shot At The Funeral” features veteran emcee AA Rashid lending a sharp verse as he and Flash weave their way through an echoing vintage Italian organ loop. “Pure Uncut” featuring Don The Jeweler is a standout joint. Don The Jeweler drops gems with his lyrical dexterity on this track. Utilizing an elegant jazz loop paired with crisp drums and bass, coupled with a perfect strings loop and echoing synth this one has a gorgeous melody.
Flash on “Pure Uncut“: “I said a few lines verbatim from “So Vintage.” The hook is “Gritty hardcore this the pure uncut for connoisseurs and thug entrepreneurs on the come up!!”I asked Dro ( I had to ask Dro cause he was in the chorus of So Vintage) and Don both to get on that Pure Uncut beat but it wasn’t a good fit for Dro, he wanted something more aggressive. I wrote the verse and when I laid the hook in the lab, I realized I had a So Vintage part 2. I Sent it to Don and he was all the way with it. I just flipped that line for the hook straight up. Don straight killed it, Brought that Queens wisdom. That song kinda sparked his return to rap too.”
Another easy standout track is “Cocoa buttermilk honey biscuit” with its gorgeous combination of chopped vocals, orchestral arrangements and drums full of soul as Flash provides endless imagery and lines about a beautiful woman. Flash and Diggs close it out with the bluesy “Fronto Fever” featuring West coast legend Planet Asia for a razor sharp verse.
Flash and Dirty Diggs have a history prior to the creation of this album. Other than forming a friendship and bond over quality music, Flash has recorded at their studio for at least the last couple years, and has been an observer to many a session with some of the game’s illest spitters. More recently Flash and Diggs began working together; Not necessarily with an album in mind, but as artists who uphold the a level of quality and artistry for authentic hip hop.
On meeting Dirty Diggs:
Flash: “So this was about 2011ish. I used to hang out at a studio mad heads would go to. PA and Diggs had a session there on a day I happened to be there. And I had a fire zip of OG Kush. I was listening to mad SAS at the time (Strong Arm Steady). “They rapped about backwoods so much it inspired me to give them a try. So I had my pack of Woods and this zip at this studio-the Drug Lab (Sick Jacken/Psycho Realm studios). This engineer C-Sik was doing mad sessions in the scene back then, he engineered the Stoney Jackson LP amongst many other big projects. But he was my contact for that studio.
So I meet PA and JR but they don’t know I rap and shit. Camp Lo was either there already or coming through that day. But we all smoked a blunt in the foyer of the studio and they went back to the lab which was a good 50 feet down the hallway. I remember telling JR he had a fire Polo hat and he was like “who the fuck are you?” The song for the Raekwon feature on Crackbelt Theatre was playing out of monitors in the control room and I was trying to sketch some bars to it. I think PA thought I was writing some of his bars down, he asked me what I was doing. Early awkward shit you know? After that first blunt I wanted to try out my zip so I rolled a nice woods back in the foyer and smoked it to my face.
Minutes later I’m pouring sweat and getting this wild panic attack I had been getting smoking Backwoods and LA OG Kush. I didn’t know what it was! I thought it was just the weed!!! I was POURING SWEAT, Like a fucking pig in a BBQ pit. Camp Lo is vibing to a beat nearby; dancing and stepping and freestyling in the hallway and I’m like fucking dying in misery and pain. I was worried, but it was just the backwood veins. But I’m not used to the tobacco. I’m completely ignorant as to what is causing this horrible feeling. What I was actually feeling is the Backwood Sweats/Fronto Fevers. But I just thought I couldn’t handle the LA Kush. Which blew my mind cuz I had been a smokey boy since 9th grade in the Bay.
So Camp Lo is concerned about me at this point.. I was fucked up, pouring wild sweat standing in front of a wall mount AC tryna cool off, Dying, pouring sweat!! I was mad nauseous- basically I was a fuckin Pinocchio pleasure island jackass. No lie! Green, nauseous and sweating through my clothes. I had on a pair of Levis Jorts and the Bred 11s, not to mention a nice cheap stripey Polo shirt. I was hype to be in the room for this session (PA, Camp Lo, Crack Belt Theatre!!) But I had to dip. I started feeling pukey so I went outside.
But anyway I’m a good 30 minutes into this sweat attack. Camp Lo is legit worried about me. I’m trying to be cheerful but it’s looking grim. Luckily Asia and JR ain’t seeing this mess. But Camp Lo is surprisingly supportive. They only speak in heavy slang and they were like “you smoked a bogey?” I’m like I don’t know I smoked this blunt and I’m about to die yo. So I think I go outside to find a spot to hurl now. I don’t know if someone was in the bathroom or what but I needed air. Man, I just needed to drink a gallon of water but I don’t know this at the time. There was a bar next door to the studio they had a garbage can. I yakked into it quietly, got in my car and drove myself home an hour plus feeling like warmed over death. I didn’t say shit to no one. I just had to dip. It was like 3-4 in the afternoon at the very latest.
Years later I would go on to smoke countless fronto blunts w Diggs and Asia and them dudes. But I knew how to surf the fevers by this point. I grew a taste for the leafs and to this day I still get the fronto willies every now and then. But I mastered them shits. Made a whole album about that feeling with the dudes whose session I had to bail from ten years prior. When I realized this after we were done with the album and it had been named, I’m like boom.”
DRHH: What was the process of writing/recording like for Fronto Fever Dreams?
Flash: “Everything on this album was written on the spot though; every verse was basically written in 2 hours or less on this go.. that is one significant difference between this and my previous work you may have heard.. I had to learn how to do that honestly. I take a little longer than most but I be formulating thoughts! But that’s how they do it in Venice (CA). I’d kick it with Diggs; get silly stupid high and be stitching these bombs together. The whole time. Sometimes in the midst of wild chaos- a lot of people be in the lab. That was a big part of this album. Just getting silly high and pulling gems out my ass every time. That’s the essence of Fronto Fevers man… Damn near getting an anxiety attack of the powerful tree and leaf pods but having these moments of clarity. Still, I tried to play with new flows. Tried to push my self beyond the average performance.”
DRHH: Can you talk about the super dope original artwork:
Flash: “It was gonna be completely different art. But someone close to me heard it and said I sound like Godzilla and King Kong. So they said that vibe would match the music better… The font on the back cover is from Calvin And Hobbes, my favorite comic strip as a kid. And Calvin used to day dream about being a T-Rex or King Kong sized too. That definitely influenced my imagination as a kid too.”
DRHH: One of your lyrical talents is your use of specific imagery.
Flash: “Yeah, fasho man I get my imagery from guys like Rick Rae and Ghost.. Rick especially. Ghost was mad exciting with it. He always made me envy how he could make you see what he is saying. Surreal and ridiculous powerful shit. If you close your eyes you can see Rick’s raps. I try to do the same shit for sure. If you took Rick, Rae and Ghost, I would hope you could make Flash haha.”
DRHH: What’s it like going through Diggs’ beats?
Flash “Diggs has an endless vault of fire that can be daunting to hear. We went through a lot of ill beats. There’s always some new fire being made over there. And I had to get my killers on Diggs beats, Dro, Don, Skunkz… That was dope to do for me- to connect the dots between these talented brothers.”
Flash: “Me as a Giant is how I see myself in this rap shit. That’s how I want to be remembered on the mic. When I smoke this 30% THC of out of fronto leafs I be imagining myself as King Kong and Godzilla. Lyrically that’s what I’m doing. Kicking fire out of skyscrapers and shit.”
Flashius Clayton and Dirty Diggs continue to build on their dope hip hop catalogs with this album. Fronto Fever Dreams is a cohesive and solid body of work that puts quotable lyrics over meticulously crafted beats.
Cop the album available here: