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.
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.
Here’s 3 dope bars and 2 Stand out tracks.
- “Being timeless takes a minute” – Gracious
- “Say Moses parted the sea but Jermaine parted the snow” – Power
- “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
- Good Morning
- 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