UK rap has never, for me, really been much to shout about. It has had its moments of pure musical magic (from the likes of Roots Manuva, The Streets and Skinnyman) to being warped into the pop realm, thanks to Dizzee Rascal, Tinchy Stryder and Tinie Tempah, just to name a few.
Despite some artists’ best efforts, the UK scene remains somewhat embryonic, yet to take that big leap to the country’s consciousness like its counterpart in the United States. But recently there have been a slew of young, conscious and hungry rappers who have turned heads with their compelling lyrics and production.
The steadily growing list includes Rejjie Snow, Little Simz (who’s making waves in the States right now), Jesse James, Isaac Danquah and Jay Prince as a collective of artists slowing gaining attention.
In this category also lies a young man by the name of Loyle Carner, who stands amongst his peers as a lyrical wordsmith. This is a dude who has clearly studied American rap and the grime scene, but is musically more aligned with the former in his rapping style and the beats he spits over.
I first got into him after seeing him selected by Complex as one of 12 British MCs to look out for this year, which brought me to his latest EP, A Little Late, released in September last year. I loved the EP for the laid back, boom-bap style of production provided by Rebel Kleff, and Carner’s relaxed tone and deeply personal lyrics that complimented the beats incredibly well.
Some may say that such a strategy is a risk, as the 20-year-old’s intense lyrics may put off the listener who might have expected something lighter considering the production. But the tactic succeeds in getting the South London MC’s messages across in a convincing manner, with an incredible flow that fits seamlessly into every song.
Family is at the forefront of his raps, as he eloquently and intricately professes his undying love for his rock, his mother, throughout the five-track project and mourning the loss of his step-father in standout track “Cantona”, a song that any rapper should be proud to have in his catalogue. Its one of the best lyrical performances on record that I’ve heard this year, delivered with a passion that I have come to love about Carner.
His latest musical offerings have only served to heighten my fandom. ‘Tierney Terrace’ essentially carries on from A Little Late in production and content, with a great video which takes the viewer around his house, to add visuals to this family-centric track, in which Loyle continues to mourn his step-father’s death, and suddenly being thrusted to the position as the man of the house. It is unapologetically deep hip-hop that, quite frankly, isn’t for the light-hearted or those expecting a party, but those who have been through and can understand the same struggle.
Then there’s the beautiful “Florence“, featuring Kwes, an ode to Loyle’s sister with a hard as hell opening line; “She could be my freckled-face fidgeter, me but miniature”. He is in his element once again with this one and it shows a softer side to Loyle Carner and a diversity in his lyricism. And for more variety in his content, check out his Soundcloud page for tracks like “When Will I Stop Dreaming”, “Guts” with Kate Tempest and “Baby Grey”
Loyle is still a young man, in the early stages of his burgeoning career, with an abundance to explore musically, lyrically and in his life more generally but its already evident that there is a wise head on his shoulders and an exceptional talent in the UK right now in the boy from South London.