………………………..FR32…………………….

Wretch 32’s exhibition of Lyricism, Showmanship and Heart makes it incredibly hard to deny him being, in the words of AVELINO at the FR32 show “the greatest we’ve produced”

Wretch has ultimate O.G status. He uplifts the young crop around him with class. “If your a young fire I may pass you the code” – Power (Each time a guest took their leave stage left, Wretch made sure we knew his gratitude and admiration for these young men) Wretch continues to “stand for Lyricism” without being perceived as a rapity rap rapper, he caters to a vast audience of hard core rap fans, an ever appreciative female demographic and the vibe tribe who enjoy tracks like tell me and whistle. This was evident in the broad range of people at the show, paying even before hearing the music on this album.

It’s this versatility and authenticity that allows Wretch to go from screaming “buss the p**** open for a dolphin” – Hulk Hogan (Young Fire, Old Flame Mixtape) to serenading his mother in a heartfelt moment on the track Time, without anyone batting an eyelid.

The FR32 album has polished production, punchlines upon punchlines, Powerful messages and melodies as well as purposeful collaborations.

No filler. No throw aways. My friend and music producer juke25 quoted it to be “solid” and it really is.

Watching the Fr32 documentary Wretch talks about his quest to fill in the blanks and do the things he didn’t do on Growing Over Life. I believe he did this. The album is comprehensive but succinct and expertly curated.

Now……

Disclaimer: This is not a personal attack.

Damien Morris. What are you smoking bro? Two stars! Two stars!

Infuriating dull? Sluggish and solemn? Are you serious? this album is carefully balanced with anthems and introspective moments. The first track is full of energy and angst. The only track Damien champions is the most playful track on the album, it was the lead single and a bonus track. Suggesting the album needed to sound more like this shows one dimensional thinking.

It’s always a shame when I am reminded that the premier news outlets in the UK are still very disconnected from us, lacking a basic understanding for the nuances, subtle brilliance, ingenuity and enterprise the UK rap and Grime scene offers. When you see the a writer from the Guardian give the guy who “stands in between Jay-Z and Nas for a lot of UK rap fans get a one paragraph review, inattentive and cold, it’s s a sad sight.

Anyway….

Here’s 3 dope bars and 2 Stand out tracks.

  1. “Being timeless takes a minute” – Gracious
  2. “Say Moses parted the sea but Jermaine parted the snow” – Power
  3. “Everybody fly but none of us pilots” –  Thugs Prayer

There are many displays of lyrical brilliance on this project but none of these do it for me like  “They don’t want us to bond they just want us to string a bell” from The opener on Growing Over Life. Antwi

  1. Good Morning
  2. Colour Purple

These tracks standout for non rap reasons, driven by the choral moments and solid vocal performances both tracks are emotive, contemplative and feature artists who fit organically on the album.

(One of my pet peeves is what I call ‘the business collab’ where an artist is featured mainly for their status or pop appeal the reverse is when urban acts are seemingly chosen to market songs for added street cred. That’s one for another day)

Good Morning has a beautifully resonant guitar throughout and ambient bass line. Rukhsana Merrise did a fantastic job taking us out. I haven’t always been full of praise for the emotive tracks Wretch has given us in the past with female vocals, but this was a potent collaboration. It’s a breathe of fresh air to hear rappers in the sweet spot when it comes to singing. The days of purposefully singing out of tune seem far behind us.

Colour Purple will really get you nodding and grooving your head (as cliche as it sounds) at the same it’s an emotive free flowing track. Kojey Radical cuts through the speakers as he sings us in and attacks his verse. The track is like a Neo-Soul Rap ballad. The minimal beat and progressive chords are a perfect fit and the moment this track crescendoes is one of the best on this project.

It sometimes seems a challenge for rappers to make thought provoking music that still engages the listener in a similar way the more commercial tracks typically would. This album does a great job of challenging that. You can find examples of this throughout the project. Thugs Prayer is cut from the same self aware and purposeful fabric but is ultimately still a banging track.

Power is undeniably powerful from the get go especially when the chorus hits with a vengeance. Full of wordplay my favourite moment on this track is “if you knew what I put on the line to get you credit, now I’m charged up, that be the reason you get the message”. There’s an irrefutable gravitas that just pours out of Wretch on this track, dimming ever so slightly towards the end of his last verse. The contrast at the end of the song is a treat. In an intense round-table the debate about Fr32 the group became engulfed in the topic of ‘were there too many bars in power’. Some believed that if the majority of the track sounded like the last segment, then the song would be more appealing. Phrases like “pop appeal, more Drakey, commercially viable” etc. were thrown around.  It’s interesting to wonder if this sentiment was discussed in the studio, and if so it’s even more fascinating to think about the decision made, to go with the final product we have.

My least favourite track is Break-Fast. This track seems less mature than the rest of the project. Yxng Bane is shaping himself as the go to for clearly delivered hooks both staccato and legato in composition, a feat he makes look easy. Unfortunately the forced metaphors and wordplay cheapen his moments on this track. Avelino doesn’t disappoint with his verse. A casual display of leave them wanting more. The outro is confusing. A small bump in the road, especially as the next stop on our journey is smooth and colourful.

As it goes, on the songs I’m not a fan of list, when scanning through Mr 32’s discography, this song ranks high in the better half of that list. I’m surprised to find myself singing with Wretch as he reiterates how he is unlike other men, leading him to deny a specific intimate request from his female companion. (if Grimesplainning hasn’t been coined already then let it be so today. Haha) A testament to the calibre of this project.

Wretch has always been a great lyricist, his authenticity and the dedication to his craft has never been in doubt, but that hasn’t translated into a completely undeniable project. Until now. The pieces have all aligned.

There’s a good mix of headphone zone music and speaker beaters on this album. Countless illustrations of mixing and mastering as an art form and brilliance in production can be heard for the duration of the project. These aren’t just beats but vehicles for the artist to get his point across as they work in tandem. Subtleties like the motif in which a quiet distorted, almost chipmunk voice echoes lyrics throughout the project add bags of replay value. Stuart Hawkes, Colin Leonard, Sons of Sonix and Olaniyi Michael Akinkunmi killed it!

This album doesn’t feel like a reinvention, it’s a complete showcase of what Wretch 32 has to offer. Thoughts of a decline out of sight “how much more gems can I drop on the future, how much my fans might just not buy my new stuff” – FITB

 

No need for trend hopping or a new formula. We won’t call it a CLASSIC yet.

 

Two stars. NO WAY

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Rap Faux Pas’

Rap Faux Pas’ in 2017 does any such thing exist?

With the rise of Grime we are also seeing the uprise of U.K rap.

Giggs and Mist recently featured on Vlad TV. Seeing them on that platform prompted me to analyse them both. I found quite a few parallels, but one in particular struck a chord with me. Mist and Giggs both have distinct stylistic traits that have set them apart, but these traits seem to intertwine with some unwritten rap no no’s.

As a young aspiring MC. I had no Guru to show me the way, there was no man of method to teach me. I learnt the craft on my own, sponging from rappers like Guru from Gang Starr and Method Man from the Mighty Wu. I think it’s still that way today for new rappers not in a crew.

(most people have a problem with nonchalant attitudes and lack of homage some new age rappers exhibit and the perception that the art form isn’t as important as the financial rewards of being a successful rapper)

I don’t remember ever being told any rules specifically, but I know that repetition in hip hop (not grime) is frowned upon. Mist has a knack for creating Karaoke quotes, his double take punchlines are incredibly difficult not to sing along to. Simplicity in flow and delivery isn’t always a bad thing, but for rappers to reach the upper echelon there is a sophistication and poetic prowess required, which I don’t believe Mist doesn’t possess but hasn’t significantly displayed thus far.

Giggs has a cool, charismatic, un-rushed delivery which to some may seem lethargic and sluggish. Others will see this as swagger or a masterful way of allowing the listener to digest each bar. Wretch 32 exhibits a similar phraseology in his prose on the first half of Open Conversation & Mark Duggan. Every pause is essential to the emotive canvas.

In 2009 the guardian wrote “Like Jeezy, he is known for his ad-libs (Giggs’s most famous example can only be described as a constipated grunt) and his extremely laidback flow. In fact, Giggs sounds so nonchalant you think he might nod off at any second. Actually, I think if I listened to a whole album of his stuff I’d probably nod off towards the end. There is something strangely compelling about him, though.” – (I know it is the guardian… but you get the point)

I must point out that Giggs does occasionally display dynamic flows, like on Kano’s 3 Wheel Ups. The brimmingly blaring brass and bulky bass lines from the Swifta Beater produced beat may have had something to do with the stylistic change but nonetheless Giggs shows pacy and direct intent, as he attacks the beat.

Looking further a field, Drake’s collaborative approach to writing has been frowned upon, thus snatching some of his credibility away from him (mostly from his peers) but it seems to have been forgiven.

Rappers singing, rappers not writing all their raps, rappers mumbling… Is this the generation that will be known for liberating the art form, breaking down boundaries and conventions, going against the grain? Or the generation that decimated the real art of rapping, introducing new norms and toppling the monuments of legends past?

To most these questions will sound a bit over the top but to Hip Hop heads around the world these are real dilemmas. This piece in itself is an example, in a scenario where I should have been gassed about two U.K acts getting international exposure I ended up analysing them. In an era where rap can be accused of losing its way, fans have never been more critical.

One thing I can say is, the Archetype of what we know a rapper to be has evolved and changed; the motifs surrounding the genre transformed. Sub genres have blossomed and the DNA of ‘The Rapper’ has found new strands.

Rap is an art form, it’s a source of entertainment and a musical genre. We must remember rap is all those things and it is part of a culture that is bigger than lyrics and melodies, held in such high regard by its founders, by its followers and by its participants.

So, as the rap game pivots from what once was. Wincing at fumbles, whining at every faux pas, critiquing and complaining will never stop but it’s the divine right of the new school to be respectful but unapologetic in their journey.

We just have to sit back and watch where that journey takes us.

“OMG their listening bro”

I’m working on creating a podcast with a friend of mine, he’s a dope producer, crep connoisseur, tastemaker type. He’s been around the scene way before I was getting into Jumpoff events at 16. Anyway…..

We have a massive desire to see Grime be considered as a legitimate, reputable global genre. I mean, there is no Grime category at the Brits and Grime is a British born Genre that has made waves and influenced artists who have won the Brits from the UK and across the atlantic…anyway!

We just want people to put some Respek on it!

Too long have we lurked in the shadows while the smart, forward thinking observers came, borrowed and bounced.

Many a time Americans (especially) paint a picture of thick accented, no swag having, cringe worthy speed rappers. But now it seems that people are finally starting to hear us. I mean really LISTENING to the music. From the UK trap sounds of Don’t Waste My Time to the UK Drill Movement and Infectious Grime anthem Shutdown.

During a discussion with my pal he said to me “Oh my God, they’re listening bro, they are actually listening” – to the words, the lyrics etc etc. But why now?

I have many theories and I’m sure none of them are right nor are solely the reason, but humour me.

  1. Young Thug. Ha. Now I’m a big fan of young thug, a big fan. I sometimes sit there and think how the hell did he come up with that melody. Sonically he is a beast. I mention the rich gang frontrunner, but I only mention him because I think he’s the leader of the new school for completely inarticulate artists. Student’s include Future, Designer etc. He represents a new wave of rapper/urban singer, type artist whose words aren’t the most important thing. I don’t mean this in the modern Mr WorldWide Pitbull kinda way, I mean we literally you don’t have to understand what they are saying. I get crucified for likening Young thug to Michael Jackson. Hear me out, When I was young and maybe because I was young, I remember not really understanding what the moon walker was saying, till this day I realise I had words completely wrong. I’m not a kid anymore but I know it’s about how I connect with the music on so many different levels even though for the most part i’m a purist and want BARS. So if we are in an age where the lyrics aren’t all that important all the time, has that knocked away the ol ‘we don’t understand em’ rationale? in a weird way has mumble rap saved Grime? NO but it might have helped. Can you imagine a Young Thug vs Flirta D mixtape though?!?!

  2. Rosenberg and Co. Mad respect to Peter, he’s been backing UK artists for a while, whilst his knowledge does seem a bit iffy at times (like most people, even artists within the scene), I do see a real passion and enthusiasm for UK urban culture. You can see videos with him and Stormzy eating bagels, see him interviewing Little Simz, Krept and Konan plus lets not forget the Rap VS Grime mixtape with Chip – “PEPPER” a few other DJ’s in the US are pretty down too Cipha Sounds and DJ Whoo Kid go hard! 

  3. So the artists that are being celebrated, stolen from, ridiculed. Those guys might have something to do with it. I’ve felt like a collection of UK artists were not brave enough to fly the flag completely and diluted their sound along the way before completely cementing the sound they repped. Nowadays it seems different and we seem more unapologetic in the way we present ourselves and our music. Skepta’s That’s not me “I used to wear Gucci, put it all in the bin cause that’s not me” or Ace Hood flow ” The UK run out of ideas, Everybody doing covers of American beats” or perfect statements in this regard.

  4. Platforms, stepping up, higher levels (see what I did there) GRM Daily, Link Up TV, SBTV, GRIME REPORT, Seb King, Spiff TV, NFTR, JDZMedia, BBC 1Xtra, Even don’t flop did a history of Grime video.

    4.5. Don’t Flop has lot to do with the positive perceptions from our transatlantic cousins and worldwide. Exports like Shotty Horroh have really thrived in the Renaissance of Battle Rap, Shotty is a stand out battle rapper with a huge following, record breaking battles vs Global Names on major platforms from KOTD to UW. and has been deep behind enemy lines and won the crowd over against Cali heavyweight Daylyt.

  5. Youtube(rs) @ToobluntTV @ThatdudeMCfly. 1’s American and literally goes on the streets and spreads the gospel of Grime like a Jehovah’s witness and the latter and super funny Canadian with a love for grime and the similarities in UK and Canadian street culture. Youtube and those who make content are very important in terms of reaching the masses.

  6. Drake, Kanye, Chris Brown & Aezalia Banks. Everyday it seems like another ‘big’ artist is putting their two pence in when it comes to whats happening in the UK. Positive or negative, no promo is bad promo right? We have seen Kanye at the brits, Drake with Section and BBK, Breezy doing his best Nicki Minaj impression. Ha…….. The question is are they culture vultures? is the love real? only time will tell.

  7. Time. I guess it’s pretty simple, it was all just a matter of time.