Loyle Carner – Hugo

A complex, often bruising experience that is rich in reward...

‘Hugo’ is the third studio album from South London rapper Loyle Carner. Showing a new side to the artist, it holds less tear-inducing and gut-wrenching ballads than his second album ‘Not Waving, But Drowning’, but for good reason. Across 10 tracks and accompanied by names that include Wesley Joseph, Athian Akec, Jnr Williams and Olivia Dean, Loyle peels back some of the layers of grief that weaved between his previous releases in order to directly touch on an unrealised anger that comes hand in hand with mixedness. The well of his emotion is still very much filled but this time he’s pulling up buckets of frustration. 

‘Hate’ kicks off the album with high tempo drums and a dragging bass line that sets a precedent of rage, an apt representation of the world he delves into on this project. On ‘Nobody Knows (Ladas Road)’ he exercises his lyrical abilities in true Loyle Carner fashion, placing it over emotionally compelling samples of gospel music. This emotionally rich sampling continues on ‘Georgetown’ as he breaks apart ideas of only being considered half of something because of his mixed heritage.

Loyle Carner – Hugo

Mid-way through the album he shifts to a softer tone, ‘Speed Of Plight’ pulls in more of his classic cadence that we’ve seen previously, adding an intricate melancholy to the stark sentiment laid out so far. ‘Homerton’ projects an energy of an intimate jazz session, illustrating perfectly why the combination of Loyle Carner and keys will always be a miracle and one of his strongest sounds. This shift links the antagonistic tracks at the start of the project to a more reflective and pensive sound that comes through in the second half.

It’s almost representative of the quickness of anger and how it’s always ultimately rooted in sadness and discontent, a concept that is perfectly aligned with the experiences that the racial politics of the UK at this moment bring forth. ‘Blood On My Nikes’ shows one of the clearest examples of the politics that infuse his psyche with the retelling of a painful experience of knife crime. Loyle finishes the album on strong grounds, ‘A Lasting Place’ is a stand out track, with ruminations on fatherhood that he continues on ‘Pollyfilla’, conveying how sometimes you can’t help but slip into reenacting your own trauma on those around you while ‘HGU’ wraps up the project with the most raw and free lyrics on the album. 

The vulnerability Loyle Carner presents has always been incredibly complex, on ‘Hugo’ it comes across as even more so. The truth is that in matters of injustice, anger is one of our most powerful tools and with it ‘Hugo’ showcases an essential part of the depth and criticality Loyle Carner possesses as an artist.

8/10

Words: Naima Sutton

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