“Zino Records ha ha ha…” how we’ve missed you. Just last month I was listening to 'Rubber Bands', wondering when Nines would grace us with a return and here we are in 2020, with an exciting new album from North West London’s finest. 'Crabs In A Bucket' straddles the intersections of Nines’ world – family, career, and life on the roads. Whilst critical, Nines embraces his multidimensionality as a man of both the streets and the music.
Poignant and melancholy, Nines’ 'Intro' and 'Energy' introduce the project strongly. Discussing his return to drug dealing following his father’ cancer diagnosis, distrusting the police and his brother’s death, Nines showcases his distinct storytelling skills as he delves into work, pain, and the varying ways life’s toils manifest.
Whilst I wouldn’t describe it as Nines’ best work, lead single 'Clout' is strengthened by its accompanying music video which provides a charming ode to the albums that inspired the artist as we see him today.
It wouldn’t be a Nines’ album without at least a few singles dedicated to the turbulent romantic realm of his life. 'Don’t Change' (aided by a Kut Klose sample of the same name) and 'Stalker’s Interlude' shine Nines in a softer light and with enjoyable melodies in both, display the rapper’s kills as an enthusing raconteur. – The penultimate single 'All Stars 2' is a favourite and definitely in the higher tier of Nines’ discography thus far. In this drill sequel to 'One Foot In’s All Stars', Nines brings some of the genre’s most distinct rappers to the forefront and with impressive delivery from all, it’s amongst the most lyrically punchy of the album.
'Crabs In A Bucket' is led by features, including collaborations from Nafe Smallz to Roy Woods. Some of these are somewhat overpowering, evident on Airplane Mode where NSG very much take the lead, but others are crafted to an equilibrium between Nines’ style and those featured. The latter is evident in singles 'Lights' (feat. Louis Rei) and a personal standout, NIC. NIC offers a smooth, rich, suit and tie, take-your-friends-to-the-casino vibe. Coupled with a strong bass and a Styles P sample, Tiggs Da Author’s chorus is a memorable announcement of Nines’ ascension to stardom and ultimately the single’s expanded acronym, one of the ‘niggas in charge’.
With a repetitive chorus and warm decrescendo, the Steel Banglez produced 'Ringaling' (feat Headie One & Odeal) is likely to be a commercial favourite, with strong artist presence, all are standing in their own as they support Nines on the 11th track.
Whilst greater experimentation would’ve been met with appreciation, one of Nines’ most notable characteristics is his ability to stay true to his experiences despite growing commercial success, so I can’t be disappointed with a tape that exudes such authenticity. Although the whole album has clear themes, each track tells a story of its own and here, Nines anchors himself as one of the UK’s best storytellers.
Words: Tochi Imo
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