Selected by: Robert Kazandjian

Name: OFB

Where They’re from: Tottenham, North London

When They Started: 2018

Genre: UK Drill

File Next To: Harlem Spartans, CGM, Skengdo X AM

Sounds Like: Bandokay: “My sound is my sound. People can try to copy my sound, but it will never be like mine, because my sound is different and unique. That’s important as an artist.” Double Lz: “In one word: greazy!”

First Music That Inspired Them: Bandokay: “Just listening to my dad, he made music, that inspired me a lot.” Double Lz: “The music of my older brother and his close friend, who sadly has passed now.”

Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham has twice been the epicentre for resistance against police brutality towards Black communities, after the death of Cynthia Jarrett during a bogus raid of her home in 1985 and Mark Duggan’s murder by armed feds in 2011. Because of this history, artists emerging from ‘Farm’ like OFB are significant in articulating what life is like for young people on a block that’s both underfunded and overpoliced. The fact that Bandokay is Mark Duggan’s son makes his testimony especially powerful.

When the sound of UK drill surged across the river from South London, OFB was the first North London collective to really conquer its dark keys and warped basslines. In late 2018, teenage OFB drillers Bandokay, Double Lz and SJ made waves as a trio with “Bad B On The Nizz”. They followed this up in early 2019 with an iconic Next Up? freestyle, which has been viewed over 16 million times on YouTube, before cementing themselves as drill’s hottest property with debut smash “Ambush”. There’s a cypher-like vibe to their early work, feeding off each other’s energy, and their uncompromising bars paint vivid pictures of the nightmarish world they were trapped in. At times, that world’s grip is inescapable. Not long after their record-breaking Westwood ‘Crib Session’ in May 2019, SJ was arrested, and eventually sentenced to life for murder.

SJ’s arrest, trial and incarceration loom over OFB’s excellent debut mixtape, Frontstreet (named after the entryway to the estate), and he features a lot less than he otherwise would have. Bandokay and Double Lz proved they still shine as a duo though. Bando’s aggressive, snappy delivery contrasts perfectly with Lz’s gravelly, unhurried tone. Bando tells TRENCH he was raised on the best of UK and US rap, while Lz grew up listening to a lot of Jamaican bashment-- and you can hear those influences creep into their respective flows. The final product is immersive, potent music--blast ‘Frontstreet’ in the gym and you’ll smash your PB on the bench, then dash dumbbells out the window.

2020 saw Bando and Lz pepper the scene with an impressive selection of loosies and features, kicking off with an icy Lightwork freestyle in January. They showed their range too, adding a layer of crud to iLL BLU’s garage-leaning production on “Magic”. Perhaps their most important offering was the Abra Cadabra-assisted, introspective “BLM”: the track landed during Black History Month, after Black communities led a summer of protests demanding racial justice. Bando and Lz’s hard-hitting descriptions of life as young Black men in London over the Coldplay-sampling instrumental linger in the mind long after the track has finished.

The pair have elevated once again in 2021, with their sophomore release Drill Commandments. Their content is as cruddy and raw as ever, but they’ve levelled up as artists, sounding even more confident and spitting tightened-up flows with greater clarity. Their ferocious rallies on “No Lie’”and “Bulls Eye” will shut down any post-lockdown shubs with the quickness. Because of Rona, OFB are yet to properly experience the love that fans have for them in a live setting. It’s something Lz is looking forward to. “We haven’t had the opportunity to tour yet,” he says, “but hopefully soon.” Bando has already been taken aback by fans from all over the UK spraying his bars: “When fans in different locations across the country know my lyrics, it’s a mad feeling seeing it.”

OFB’s aim for the future is to “keep pushing for greatness”, as Bando puts it. They’ve come a long way from their days spent posted up on Frontstreet. “I’m proud of the position I’m in now,” Lz explains. “I’m proud of myself. I just want to push to achieve more now.” For Bando, it’s the thought of his dad looking down on him that drives him forward. “I’m proud of everything I’ve done so far in music,” he says. “Especially where I’ve come from, not everyone gets that opportunity and I know my dad’s proud of me. That’s what keeps me going every day.”

TRENCH Highlight...

Posted on March 25, 2021