In hip-hop terms, Blade is a legend. Debuting with 1989 smash Lyrical Manic, the Armenian-born rapper went it alone after a series of label issues. Launching his own 691 Influential imprint, Blade famously sold his product on street corners and at the Groove Records store. By 1993 he was ready to record his first album proper but, lacking finance, asked his fans for cash up front to record the LP. Paying in droves, each devotee received their name in the album sleevenotes and on the limited white vinyl single Clear The Way by way of thanks.
Though in later years Blade would score a Top 40 hit with his Mark B collaboration The Unknown, for most die-hard followers this album marked a pivotal moment in the evolution of UK hip-hop. As a result – and given that copies have never been easy to find – Original Dope’s reissue couldn’t be more welcome. Engineered by the legendary No Sleep Nigel, the album is packed with raw, gritty beats and potent rhymes. Every listen reveals additional nuances, while tracks such as the colossal Dark & Sinister and Hold Your Own completely envelop the listener. An interview with the man himself in the sleevenotes tells the whole story of Blade from start to finish. Powerful, in many places angry, but most of all a zenith.