It’s Time For Grime To Move On From The Brit Awards

grime

As featured in Complex UK

Last night’s Brit Awards was supposed to be a momentous night for the grime scene. After the controversy of #BritsSoWhite last year (where only one black British artist was up for nomination) and with grime acts up for the top prizes this year, this was meant to be the night the mainstream finally stood up and recognised the genre at large. The likes of Skepta, Kano and Stormzy were nominated for multiple awards and expectations were as high as they have ever been.

Well, The Brits had other plans. Despite show-stealing performances from Skepta (whose rendition of “Shutdown” was marred by constant muting) and Stormzy, who joined Ed Sheeran on stage, neither were able to scoop an award, beaten by Rag’N’Bone Man and the late David Bowie in the British Breakthrough Act, Best Male Artist and Best Album categories, respectively. Social media went crazy—how could The Brits disregard the scene for the second consecutive year?—but this failure speaks to a much bigger problem.

While it is understandable to be disappointed, there is no reason to be shocked by The Brits’ actions. After all, it was only under mounting pressure that the British Phonographic Industry switched up its process of selecting nominees to incorporate not only black artists, but grime artists, in the wake of the much-publicised #BritsSoWhite controversy. After last night, this decision can only be seen for what it was; an incredibly hollow one, not representative of a real desire to be more inclusive, but a half-hearted pandering to public and industry outrage. And, while the nomination of grime artists can be seen as a positive, it will have been doubly disappointing for all involved that they showed up at the awards only to be denied once more.

The writing is now firmly on the wall: The Brits have shown, yet again, that they don’t really care about the grime scene and its accomplishments, and that it cannot be trusted to be more representative of what is really going on in the country musically. Equally, now is the time for grime to move on from The Brits.

The scene has never needed this validation, and that’s what makes it so great—that Skepta, Stormzy, Kano, Wiley et al are at the centre of British pop culture, shutting down performances on the stages of award shows that don’t really acknowledge them, and making history, in spite of the mainstream’s portrayal of them. The mainstream has never understood the scene and last night was further proof.

Looking inwards, urban artists already have two ready-made awards ceremonies that are for us: The MOBOs and The Rated Awards. The MOBOs is a recognised institution, and The Rated Awards is still in its infancy and will only get bigger. While they may not be perfect, they are designed to celebrate urban music and its multiple facets, and it’s time to place our full support into these organiSations. The Brits could never really capture the pure vibrancy and diversity of the urban scene like our award shows can, and this needs to be greater emphasised following last night.

If we can build these shows to the same level of prestige as The Brits, that will be a win far greater than what The Brits could ever offer. This is one way to force the UK mainstream into really noticing us, because history tells us that when we show we can do it ourselves, the establishment takes notice, and it would make every achievement even more special. It may take a few years for these awards to reach that level but you need only look to America, where the Grammys continuously fail to recognise hip-hop, and with the black community placing more emphasis on the BET Awards, it is gaining more recognition every year.

More and more of the scene’s biggest names (both in music and within the industry) should attend The MOBOs and Rated Awards and big them up, to elevate them to a position that can eventually transcend both the urban scene and the mainstream. Another method would be for urban artists to boycott The Brits, and make their presence felt by not being there at all.

Arguably, the scene gave The Brits some cool factor last night that it otherwise doesn’t have—Skepta’s skanking during “Shutdown”, for example—and not showing up strips the ceremony of its edge, making it just as hollow as its selection process. With that, hopefully more eyes can turn toward the awards that showcase the most thrilling and dominating section of UK music today.

The fact that the most established and the exciting newcomers of the urban scene are all in one roof at these awards should be played up more also, as these are the only shows that can achieve such a union and capture urban music in the finest light. The black community in the UK is a resilient one, able to withstand the greatest of adversities on our own terms.

Grime will live on with or without The Brits, and with The MOBOs and Rated Awards, there are two vehicles through which we can express and rejoice in our greatness in music, in our own way. Last night’s events should serve only to turn heads towards these structures, and show that it’s not the end of the world if The Brits ain’t for us, because there’s always something that is.

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What The Return Of Roadside G’s Means For Grime

As featured in Complex UK

January 6, 2017, was a special day for grime.

After the astronomic heights the scene reached in 2016, its purists came down with a severe case of nostalgia when Brixton crew Roadside G’s rolled through to Kenny Allstar’s Radar Radio show. It was a moment everyone dreamed of, but no one could have imagined—the triumphant return of the collective that put South LDN on the map during the heady Channel U days of the scene genesis. Speaking to Kenny on Radar, the present members—Alan B, Dan Diggerz, Smiley, Elmz and Den Den—seemed just as shocked as us at their reunion, explaining how this was the first time all five of them had been in the same room in seven or eight years. A truly unfathomable admission, considering the kinetic chemistry between all of them that was plain to hear (and see).

Transporting back in time even further, however, and the guys on the Roadside were shaping this exciting new thing called grime in its formative years, south of the river, with gritty accounts of life on the roads of Brixton. They proceeded to retell their story of shelling down radio sets and setting the levels high for their peers during the early days, spitting real street rhymes over the most frantic of grime beats—the “first crew” to really touch on such subjects and the difficulties of living the life their rhymes portrayed, completely engulfing them (fellow G’s R.A. and DRz remain in prison). The strides grime has taken has largely passed RSG’s by, but at Radar, they went on to absolutely body their set, sounding as relevant now as they did a decade ago.

Riding classic grime instrumentals and UK drill beats, they rapped vividly and with intensity in front of a giddy Kenny, with some of the best one-liners in recent memory. It was clear they hadn’t missed a step. “We were ten years ahead of our time,” said Diggerz, a statement which spoke volumes once the madness ensued. Immediately, listeners were taken on a journey back to the halcyon days of pirate radio; Radar’s lowkey, visceral environment suited them perfectly and, in Kenny Allstar, they were in the hands of a man who truly understood and was invested, and had taken their journey with them. Roadside G’s also hinted at new material, which could mean this is only the beginning of their return. And, although their lane might not be as niche as it once was, they always brought an originality, a level of conviction and skill, that set them apart from their more illustrious counterparts in East and North London.

Bringing those gully vibes to grime’s commercial stage, at a time when it is at its most popular yet, RSG’s can now reinstall some real legitimacy to the game as far as bars go, and entice a new generation of grime-listening kids who have come for the ride. At this point, though, it isn’t even about that. Listening back to their Radar set, you get a feeling that they felt they had something to prove after years in the wilderness. It silenced any doubts whether they could still go bar-for-bar with grime’s biggest names, and, needless to say, they blew all expectations out of the park. The set proved they could seamlessly blend back into the scene and be one of the best things about it.

In the grand scheme of things, Roadside’s recent shelling was a great trip down memory lane that shook scene nurturers to their core and, hopefully, will have amplified their visibility amongst grime heads old and new. Such an event can only benefit the scene and remind listeners not only of the crew’s greatness but also how, dare I say, grimey, the genre can still be.

 

My year in articles

Not to sound corny or anything, but 2016 has been a year of progression for me, both personally and professionally, and I branched out to write for some big publications, and got my own radio show.

So, being the end of the year and all, I’ve rounded up a few of my favourite pieces that I wrote, which I have listed below.

Enjoy!

http://www.liverpoolfc.com/news/first-team/215378-blog-reds-can-use-dortmund-display-to-defeat-stoke

http://uk.complex.com/music/2016/08/the-lowkey-importance-of-frisco-grime-boy-better-know

http://www.cozymag.co.uk/articles/a-tribe-called-quests-most-slept-on-songs

http://uk.complex.com/music/2016/09/when-skepta-wins-the-whole-grime-scene-wins

http://www.dummymag.com/lists/the-10-best-rhythm-and-grime-tracks-according-to-sian-anderson

http://uk.complex.com/music/2016/11/10-best-jammer-features/

http://www.dummymag.com/lists/the-9-best-birmingham-grime-tracks-according-to-slick-don?utm_content=buffer11d6c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

http://uk.complex.com/music/2016/09/wretch-32-growing-over-life-review

Jammer’s 10 Best Features

jammer

As featured in Complex UK

When you think about some of the most important voices and influencers in grime, many names spring to mind, and rightly so. There are many who have had a hand in nurturing and shaping the genre into the powerhouse it now is. They weren’t necessarily the coldest on the microphone or the tastemakers making the scene shine, like a Wiley or DJ Slimzee, but through innovative methods of gaining exposure for the young stars, such as pirate radio or the lo-fi video recordings from the underground, it’s hard to imagine the scene without these contributions. Someone who always had varied talent in abundance goes by the name of Jahmek “Jammer” Power. With a voice that is immediately recognisable, Jammer’s is a presence you can’t ignore. Whether it’s providing skippy, eccentric, ad-lib-filled bars, or revolutionising the game with Lord Of The Mics, he always leaves his mark wherever he lands.

Some would say the Murkle Man doesn’t get the praise his movements in the game deserve but, as part of Boy Better Know, Jammer has been reaping the rewards of a long and charted journey to the ascendancy. On top of that, he can mash down raves and lay bars against the best when duty calls. Especially when the very best emcees are lined up together in the hardest of posse cuts, Jammer stands out in the most memorable ways. Having said this, we look back at his career with a selection of his best guest verses.

Skepta — “Detox” f/ Boy Better Know (2016)

Beginning with the most recent, Jammer absolutely steals the show at the end of “Detox”—a track off Skepta’s Konnichiwa album—with a fiercely energetic 8-bar exhibition. Coming up against his BBK brethren, he introduces the world to Dagenham Dave as he weaves his turn-up raps together so concisely that you believe every word you hear. It’s Jahmek’s raspy vocals that dominates the beat and makes this one of the finest features of 2016.

Frisco — “Motivation” f/ Jammer & Lay-Z (2012)

Pardon the pun, but Jammer is fully motivated on Frisco’s mixtape cut “Motivation”. Frisco was always going to lay down some fire, and Jammer accepted the challenge. After revealing his love for all things night time, the emcee slews the competition with slickness and shows that he isn’t worried about what the next man is up to, with bars like: Decide if you rate me or you hate me, but none of them things don’t phase me, I’ve got a ting on my arm from Page 3.

Skepta — “Duppy” f/ Trim, Wiley, Creed, JME, Jammer, Footsie, Bossman & Bearman (2006)

Enough has been said of this classic, also known as “Doin’ It Again”, and deservedly so. It is one of the most significant posse cuts in grime, containing a superstar cast of players. Each emcee brought their own individual style to the table, but Jammer was unstoppable with some iconic lyrics: I’m a big man but I’m not 30, yooo, watch me get dirty. On a track featuring the likes of Wiley, Skepta, Jme and Footsie, Jammer wasn’t as eccentric as usual, but spat with purpose as he pledged to heat man up, roast man like turkey. A vivid image.

Wiley — “Saw It Coming” f/ Jammer, Eyes, JME & Syer (2006)

We should have seen these hard bars coming from Jammer. There is a real underground feel to this cut from Wiley’s Da 2nd Phaze, and Jahmek Da World adds even more grit with a menacing 16 over Mizz Beats’ menacing backdrop. Boasting his superior knowledge of the scene, nothing gets past him as he makes the way up to royalty. Jammer is even humble enough to admonish some demons (Jammer is a blatant g, but there is still hate in me) as he sets aside all eccentricities to lay down the real for the haters. It’s an intensity that is rare for him, but a method to convey his feelings in the most and direct and hard-hitting manner.

Skepta — “I Spy” f/ Jammer (2007)

On this flip of Rebound X’s legendary “Rhythm & Gash” instrumental, from Skepta’s studio debut Greatest Hits, both emcees came with the heat but, in my opinion, Jammer just edged his BBK cohort. Such a beat required a different sort of performance, and Jahmek sounded super hungry, highlighting his far-reaching ambition, from making Ps just like Coca Cola, to always targeting Nike instead of Gola. Very relatable, I might add. Over production that made literally every MC who hopped on it shine, Jammer added charisma and flair and, dare I say, humour, to the track’s coldness.

President T — “Best In Britain” f/ Jammer (2016)

“Rhythm & Gash” makes another appearance on this list, but is almost unrecognisable thanks to Zeph Ellis’ flip. A chaotic number, Jammer joins the legendary President T in the booth, and oozes braggadocio and composure. With a flow reminiscent of Novelist on “1 Sec”, Jammer remains direct amidst the dizzying barfest: Got it on lock like all of my dreads, them man there can’t talk to the dread, make MCs go walk with the dead. “Best In Britain” is one of his strongest vocal performances to date.

The Streets — “Cinema Barz” f/ Jammer (2011)

Jammer has certainly sharpened his flows and rhymes over the last few years, able to meet any beat with a rollercoaster of quotables. On this collaboration with The Streets, he blows the track out of the water from the very beginning: Yo, I was born a winner, born again sinner, eating great, three course dinner / I’m on a mic with Skinner, no chinchilla, MC serial killer, iller. Mike Skinner’s instrumental borders jungle territory, but it serves a perfect environment for Jammer’s bullet-fast flows and puns. Wordplay is arguably his greatest skill, and it shines all over this banger.

Mumdance — “Tarahtid” f/ Trim & Jammer (2010)

Stepping slightly away from grime, Mumdance’s “Tarahtid” bangs with exotic sitar plucks and colourful synths, and Jammer is vibing all over the beat. Trading bars with Trim, the two are on song throughout, before Murkle Man attacks the track on a solo tip with amusement and fluidity. The chemistry between Trim and Jammer is kinetic, almost as if they could spit together all day and be content, and both bring some coldness to this Mumdance masterpiece.

Chip — “School Of Grime” f/ D Double E & Jammer (2015)

You can’t expect anything from a song titled “School Of Grime”, other than to be educated by some true masters. This is certainly the case on Chip’s 2015 banger. Coming after arguably the genre’s very best, D Double E, Jammer is relentless with his trademark skippy flows, calling out all challengers and describing their inferiority to him. Referencing everything from N.A.S.T.Y. Crew to WiFi, he is speaking from a position of strength, having literally seen it all. In the end, Jammer shows just how high up he is in the school of grime.

Footsie — “Spookfest” f/ Jme, D Double E, Jammer, P Money & Chronik (2012)

On the self-produced “Spookfest”, Newham General Footsie went all out on the features, including another standout Jammer contribution. The beat, minimalist and menacing, is perfect for him and his threatening bars: I’ll pop star just like a champagne cork, body outlined in chalk. He had to come for emcees’ throats considering the stellar competition around him, and he didn’t disappoint. Jammer has this profound ability to turn up his intensity levels mid-verse, and he sounds a whole new level of focused as a result. The Murkle Man does exactly what his name suggests.

Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Boy In Da Corner’ show was, well, a disappointment

Dizzee Rascal meant a lot to me growing up. At the time of the release of the seminal Boy In Da Corner I was 11 years old, having grown up predominantly on hip-hop from the US. But one night, skimming through the TV I came across the Mercury Awards of 2003 and witnessed a teenager claim the top prize of Album of the Year, and that was the start of the intrigue.

Being so young, I didn’t have a clue of the significance of the moment but later down the line, Dizzee’s visuals for ‘I Luv U’ and ‘Fix Up Look Sharp’ had me hooked. Here was a guy who walked and talked like me, and was at the top of the world in this thing called grime. Even listening to the album as I got older, it began to click more and more that it was an anthem symbolising the rage and anger, but also the flair and style of black youth in the UK. The ice-cold synths and murky production stayed with me and sounds just as fresh now as it was back then.

The grime genre was at its genesis in 2003, and BIDC provided the mainstream credibility the scene got to have heads turn towards the tower blocks of East London where the music was festering. Suddenly, a whole movement that was getting louder and louder by the day was gaining attention, and it was all through Dizzee’s debut. I tend to call the album the Illmatic of grime, because it really felt like it made the same impact as Nas’ legendary debut.

Now, what Dizzee chose to do after BIDC has been heavily critiqued, perhaps unfairly, and tracks like ‘Bonkers’ and ‘Dance With Me’ couldn’t be any further from BIDC if they tried, but there was always an inkling from fans that he would return to his roots. So, when he announced his Red Bull Music Academy show, performing BIDC in full in his hometown of London, dreams became reality. Finally, the emcee born and bred in Bow would make a triumphant comeback and tear Stratford’s Copper Box Arena down, grime style.

Arriving at the gigantic venue, excitement levels were manic, as younger and older faces colluded for what would be a special night. Suddenly, the voices of people expressing their first impressions of the album descended as the lights cut out, before the legendary opening of ‘Sittin Here’ played, with the album’s iconic colours behind Dizzee as he literally sat there and rapped away.

Moving onto ‘Stop Dat’ and ‘I Luv U’, the madness truly ensued. Probably the highlight of the night, the energy of the crowd was almost volatile as Dizzee spat his iconic bars. Then came a hypeman, who would stay on stage for the remainder of the performance. It felt right at the time, though. Sure enough, the show was incredible at these moments, but it was after ‘Jus A Rascal’ that I began to see things more clearly.

Once he was over the more popular tracks and transitioned to cuts like ‘Round We Go’ and ‘Live-O’, I got the intense feeling that Dizzee was a passenger at his own show. He did very little to carry the crowd by way of reciprocating their energy, leading to a serious lull once he got through the bangers. A great performance is going to have those moments, and it’s up to the performer to keep everyone hyped, a duty he left to his hypeman. His presence became more of a burden, because he was merely disguising the fact that Dizzee wasn’t doing much.

It reached confusion point when, in the middle of ‘Jezebel’ a song that had re-up’d the crowd’s gassed levels, only for Dizzee to stop the song halfway through, seemingly forgetting the words. The performance didn’t recover after that and ended somewhat anticlimactically. Leaving the stage Dizzee would give thanks to everyone who came out, proclaiming: “I know this means a lot to you.” That struck me, confirming in my mind that it wasn’t important to him to perform the album that put him on the map, just around the corner from where he grew up.

So here I am, ultimately disappointed with a show that promised so much. But I wasn’t the only one, and the sentiment was shared with many. Though the best bits were truly sick, they had nothing to do with what Dizzee was bringing to the table. The audience made the performance what it was and, once you got over the importance and excitement of the occasion, it left so much to be desired. Saturday even presented a wonderful opportunity for Dizzee to make a real statement and bring out his former bredrin, Wiley, for ‘2 Far’, something fans were clamouring for, but it never came to pass. Not even God’s Gift for ‘Hold Ya Mouf’ either.

And, I’m not going to outright state that he performed BIDC in London just for the paycheck, but think of it this way: Why would he perform it in full in New York before London? Would Jay-Z perform Reasonable Doubt in its entirety in London before hitting New York? Unlikely. Dizzee gave an exclusive performance of his greatest work to an audience that would not have understood its gravity. If that isn’t a slap in the face of UK grime fans, who have followed Dizz from day one, I don’t know what is and, at this point, his regard for grime must be so low that he wouldn’t think to give London the show first, or even put on a great show.

He’s probably going to earn of hundreds of thousands and that’s wondeful for him, but at a time when grime is gaining more attention than ever, Saturday night could have been legendary but in the end, it fell flat. Dizzee will always be a legend but if that was his last meaningful contribution to grime, it would be a great shame.

When Skepta Wins, The Whole Grime Scene Wins

As featured in Complex UK

Thursday 15th September 2016 was something special. At a star studded Mercury Music Awards ceremony, against the likes of Laura Mvula, David Bowie and Radiohead, Skepta, a grime MC from north London, took home the prestigious award of Best Album for Konnichiwa.

For the first time since Dizzee Rascal’s Boy In Da Corner 13 years before, grime had won big on one of the UK’s famed award nights. It was a moment that meant so much; firstly for Skepta himself, with the award being the culmination of a charted journey to greatness, and for the grime scene in general (Kano was also nominated for Made In The Manor), receiving major recognition at the apex of its so-called resurgence.

Joseph Junior Adenuga now joins an elite group, one that has only one other artist (Dizzee) in it, and his legacy is now cemented. This accolade is the ultimate acknowledgment of his artistry and fierce independence that has brought him to this point; it was already clear that he’s given so much to grime—from his mid-2000s rise to the present day—but this new win arrives at an important time for the scene more generally. It’s another sign to show that, after all these years, the genre is now being taken seriously as style of British music that can stand up tall next to the best of them.

After the controversy behind the #BritsSoWhite campaign, there was a collective feeling across the scene that grime would not get its moment in the sun, and that award shows would never fully acknowledge its impact not just on British music, but also the culture.

The noise was deafening, but artists like Skepta paid it no mind, continuing as he meant to go on, shutting down shows and providing a soundtrack to life on the ends—a message that has propelled him to worldwide stardom.

Not one grime artist has been in the same position as Adenuga is in right now, but it’s the pure organic and authentic nature of his journey that resonates the most. Getting to the stage of winning one of the country’s most prestigious awards on his own terms, with his Boy Better Know family and no record label, confirms every meticulous move made in his recent career—from single to single and later Konnichiwa—has led to this moment.

There is now no doubt that Skepta stands as one of the greatest MCs the country has ever produced but, speaking after his historic win, he hasn’t lost sight of his aims in the longer run: “I want to inspire people who make all kinds of music, people who are with record labels who tell them what to do. I want people to get out of these deals because of Skepta. I want to get into people’s heads but I’m not signed—I’m still independent.”

It is this kind of motivation which has influenced the Meridian don to team up with Levi’s on a new community project. Aimed at fostering the next generation of musical talent, the project will develop a community workshop space in his hometown of Tottenham, and aims to give up-and-coming artists vital tools in recording, production, and social media.

The campaign is further proof that Skepta is a man of the people and has always wanted to uplift the people of his area through music—a process that has brought him to the level he is currently at. He doesn’t do this for himself. He does it for those who, like him, want to use music as a means of expression, change and togetherness. Skeppy wants to use his newfound platform for the advancement of his community and the scene that gave him a chance in life, demonstrating his undying loyalty to his north London roots.

Looking back on his career from the early days of “D.T.I.” and “Private Caller” to monster singles “That’s Not Me” and “Shutdown”, Skepta’s journey has seen its ups and downs but he has never changed what he holds dear, instead using it to break down the barriers that grime has been fighting since its inception and, essentially, forcing people to gravitate towards him; a long-term strategy that has finally began to reap rewards. This growth has made him such an endearing figure in the scene and, with such a huge reach that has now permeated the pop culture realm, his influence in fostering such attention to grime has eclipsed that of any other artist.

Shunning the temptations of traditional crossover mainstream success and sticking to grime’s principles while shunning the norm, which can be a scary path for any artist, Skepta has kicked the door wide open for the whole world to accept grime as the new musical tour de force, and the purely natural way this has been achieved.

He has stuck to his philosophy, and his alone, meaning that the Mercury Prize win is all the more of a great moment. Skeppy’s win is one for him, his team, and the grime scene, and one which has immortalised him as one of this country’s greatest to ever pick up a microphone.

Wretch 32’s ‘Growing Over Life’: A Review

As featured in Complex UK

Among the deftest emcees to emerge from the grime scene since its inception, the man known as Wretch 32 from Tottenham has always worn his heart firmly on his sleeve and has come into his own in recent years.

From the early days of The Movement to commercial success and acclaim on his own, Wretch has led by example as he has charted his journey from the underground to the ascendancy of mainstream recognition. Returning with his third studio album, and his first in half a decade, Growing Over Life uncovers an artist with an intense sense of community, one who understands the journey he has undertaken and the sacrifices that he’s made.

Leaning towards traditionally hip-hop soundscapes, the album’s production is riddled with lowkey boom bap but levelled by piano, brass and violin sequences that demonstrate the high level of musicality and thought put into Wretch’s overall sound. Flipping The Notorious B.I.G. on “All A Dream” serves as the clearest indicator of Growing Over Life‘s musical direction. It’s almost minimal with its subtlety, without sounding it.

Only album opener and highlight “Antwi” sticks to the trademark grime formula to amazing effect, and sets the precedent for the next 11 tracks to follow. His musical parameters are expanded to a level that is far from the realm of the scene he came up in.

Wretch is at his sharpest lyrically on this album, tackling his subject matter almost with a sense of duty, as if he was born to. “Pressure” projects expectations placed on Wretch from all cylinders, and his way of overcoming and making his family, and the ends, proud. It’s almost as if the MC relishes the responsibilities thrust upon him, adamant they make him a better person.

Delving into the album more and the first half certainly acts as a lamenting of the struggles and consequences of trying to make it, as demonstrated in the phone conversation between Wretch and his partner at the end of “Take Me As I Am”. He decides to choose pursuing his dream over his relationship; a way of bettering his life in the long-run, despite the pain of losing his love.

Calls for social justice are rife throughout the album, with “Open Conversation & Mark Duggan” the shining musical star. Born out of a mutual frustration towards the treatment of black people in this country, Wretch lets himself go lyrically as he reflects on a history of the police failing the black community, with a standout assist from Avelino compounding the anger further.

Wretch 32 continues to coax his guests out of their comfort zone, and they sing their hearts out in support. From Emeli Sandé and Laura Mvula to Kranium and Knox Brown, the features serve to perfectly advance the pain and sorrow, and later joy and happiness that encapsulate the project.

This is particularly effective in the second half of the album, which shifts to a sense of gratefulness and recognition of those important to him, in tracks “I.O.U.”, featuring Sande, and “Cooked Food”, as Wretch levels up with heartfelt vocals. Ending with “Church”, the MC appears to have found solace in himself, able to hang his head high in church rather than being another statistic in the prison system. His life has seen a number of ups and downs, but he wouldn’t have it any other way, with the bellowing cries of a gospel choir reflecting the album’s triumph.

Wretch has reached a pinnacle on his third album, expressing himself in maximum comfort and with a maturity that has seldom been seen in his generation—all while delivering insightful, romantic, and ultimately triumphant bars that reinforce what we already knew about him.

As an artist and a leader of the UK scene, he has never been afraid to project himself to the fullest, and this is fully realised in his latest body of work. Growing over life, he most certainly has done.