Raising the bar for UK rap...

There is no formula to finesse: it can’t be bought, it can’t be fabricated and it certainly doesn’t come to those who actively seek out for it. Yet, it is something that comes naturally to North London rapper Knucks. Making his debut with 2016’s ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’, there’s an effortless suave in the riser’s cadence, an invaluable trope to his artistry which has made him one of the most charismatic figures in UK Rap.

‘NRG 105’ saw Knucks piece together his first full-length project, one that refined the artist’s slick-talk as he weaving between romance and jazz-infused hip-hop beats. Yet, in approaching the concluding ’Home,’ an impromptu mastery of story-telling is unveiled, offering everything apart from closure. Fast-forward to third studio album, ‘Alpha Place’ - the rapper now ventures into the deeply introspective, bringing immaculate self-production and refined wordplay to the table.

Opening track ‘Alpha House’ is a stark flashback to the Kilburn native’s formative years, luring listeners in with a piano-lead beat that paints an adolescence teetering on the edge of mischief. There is a renewed sense of control in Knucks’ rhymes, selective in their intonation despite remaining conversational and even moreso intimate. Ensuring not to give too much too early, the tracklist steers into the bouncing likes of ‘Nice & Good’ and ‘Decisions,’ inviting the collaborative forces of SL and M1llionz. Undoubtedly, these stand as two highlight features across the project in distinctive energies and catchy hooks. There is a cautionary presence that lingers, most prominently on ‘Leon the Professional’ that places Knucks as narrator of the word-of-mouth tales that make their way around his estate. The single paves the way for a yet to be released three-part film that delves into London youth culture, elevating the wordsmith into the conscious and all-encompassing.

“Player, player…” - a punchy entrance for the irresistibly nostalgic ‘Playa’ featuring Next Wave cosign Sainté. The two carry the track with a casual braggadocio, repping a simple yet addictive hook that makes for a standout moment. Following track ‘Send Nudes’ is equally as playful in its wordplay, sampling Potter Payper’s recently re-vamped ‘Gangsteritus’. In some ways, the track feels needlessly hindered by its sample’s success, particularly considering its own lyrical strengths. By no means does the track stand in its predecessors shadows, but runs the risk of over-kill.

Atmospheric to its core, ’Die Hard’ reaps its own accolades with a feature from rap heavyweight Stormzy. It’s mature, menacing and foreshadows a shift in both artist’s following chapters.

Resonant closer ‘Three Muskateers’ brings the listener back to Alpha House, an ode to his two childhood friends and their conflictive yet resilient dynamic. In its concluding recalling, the track balances a fondness with chilling imagery that addresses the hardships of growing up, whilst showcasing the 27-year old at his most poignant.

From start to finish ‘Alpha Place’ is raising the bar for UK Rap, there’s no doubt about it.

8/10

Words: Ana Lamond

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