Behind his new album...

Royal T has always made grime with a difference. From first hearing the finely-tuned '1UP' after being released by No Hats No Hoods in 2009, I knew there was something different about the sound he was putting together and judging by the brilliance of his forthcoming 'Rinse Presents...' debut album, it seems Rinse did too. First championed by Elijah and Skilliam almost 4 years ago at the age of just 17, Royal T's work over the last 18 months has led many to refer to him as the leader of a new generation of grime - and rightly so. His arcade-themed, 2-step influenced sound marries soulful garage melodies with the raw bullishness of grime in a wonderfully palatable way, a way that has seemingly opened up the 140 spectrum to new and different audiences. With this in mind, his LP debut with Rinse makes complete and total sense.

The album itself is a revelation. You see, I've always felt that grime was a genre comparable to that of a Ferrari that never left the showroom, a genre that could be engineered to absolute perfection if done properly, a genre good enough to be recognised as a reputable form of electronic music - this LP is the first to make a genuine case for all three. Working his sound to the maximum, Royal T has created a grime album that showcases the genre fully and without compromise.

Aside from the production value, features are a defining feature of the album's success. Whilst fellow Rinse flag-bearer P Money and Butterz label mate Terror Danjah are obvious collaborators, fellow Rinse stalwart Roska is a far bigger surprise but one that cooks up probably the best track on the album. It is also good to see a feature for one of grime's most promising young MCs in Merky Ace, a candidate for a bright future himself on talent alone, whilst the exceptionally talented Ruby Lee Ryder also makes an appearance on 'You're Saved'.

The LP begins with 'Cruel To Be Kind', a hard-eged, phrenetic instrumental in keeping with recent remix work done for Zinc's 'Goin In' earlier this year, with P Money welcoming us to 'a new generation of grime' with some excellent trademark wordplay. The brilliant 'Inside the Ride' is next to make an appearance, having been released as a single by Rinse earlier this year alongside 'Cool Down'. It works a glorious little introduction, complete with D Double E adlibs, into the perfect 2-step / grime crossover - maximum impact is most definitely felt on the dancefloor.

Not an album to rest on its laurels, 'Music Box', a joint venture with Terror Danjah, is a completely different story. Far more intricate, (I've not heard so many sounds work so well together), Terror's influence is constant, with a series of complex breakdowns and hard-hitting bass lines ripping through some finely-tuned Royal T sampling. Despite always showing a great deal of maturity, even in his earliest work, it is perhaps here that you can see the scale of the development in how well he is able to execute his sound.

Having recently acquired his own Rinse FM show, his 2-hour slot has been the go-to place for new material and 'Gully Funk' has been the latest to have earned some teasing airplay in and amongst more familiar Royal T classics. In the mould of 'Inside The Ride' although perhaps a little rougher, it is sure to be another dance floor master class. How he manages to produce grime with such swagger and verve is beyond me but he does it so well it is of little significance.

Royal T - Inside The Ride

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'Missing Aurora' sees a welcome look in for Royal T's garage-led productions although it is somewhat overshadowed by the magnificence of his collaboration with Roska on 'Work Your Body', a track I selected it as one of my top 5 tracks of the month for Clash only a few weeks ago. Awash with garage and house influences and some smooth vocal sampling, only to be underpinned by a gritty, low-end bass line, it is a track that exemplifies just how far grime and the 140 sound can be taken; although Roska's influence tells, it is the grimy undercurrents that really make it sing. Thinking about it, that in itself is probably what makes the LP as a whole so special.

In a return to the more traditional grimy blueprint, 'Music Please' sees the aforementioned Merky Ace take to the mic to provide the album with a more nostalgic cut. The instrumental itself will be familiar to Butterz fans, having been a stable on Elijah and Skilliam, Terror Danjah, Swindle et al's shows for the last 18 months but a special album rework gives it some welcome added swagger. It is Merky who is the star on this one though, channelling raw aggression into what is essentially a great grime single. 'If you don't want problems I beg you stick to the music please' he advises.

The LP is rounded off in style by the fast paced, rave-friendly 'Space Cowboy' and 'You're Saved' - flawless garage featuring Ruby Lee Ryder, the voice behind Terror Danjah's 2011 smash 'Full Attention', both of which typify the nature in which Royal T has chosen to explore the 140 boundaries.

All things considered, this is a remarkable debut. Nothing has been left untouched but at the same time, nothing has been overdone or overworked and where it oozes polish, refinement and technical brilliance in parts, it screams raw, gritty and aggressive in others. It is an album that has embraced grime's roots to create something genuinely fresh and exciting. For those who have questioned Rinse's release policy over the last 12 months, it is the perfect riposte. Well done Royal T.

As for his own thoughts on the album..

"I don't know where to start really! I got asked to do it and I felt ready to something like this. It had been an aim ever since I started getting my music played on the radio and it was always my aim to bring the instrumental side back to the shops and back to the clubs. I wanted to be the artist rather than sitting behind an MC and just beat-making. I think I've just started to find the right balance as well so the album definitely came at a good time".

"I had a few unfinished projects and a few beats I'd been playing out for a while and even a few bits that I myself wanted to hear. Through past releases, people have tried to put me in boxes - I was supposed to be the guy bringing back 8-bar stuff after '1UP' and then I was supposed to be bringing garage back with 'Inside The Ride' and whatever but it's never been about that for me. I just wanted to showcase everything I could and put it into this album. Even if it isn't specifically grime in places, it's the direction I want to take grime in, it's what I think grime should be."

'Rinse Presents... Royal T' is set to be released on September 3rd.

Words by Tomas Fraser

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