Rumours of the arrival of President T’s ‘Stranger Returns’ have persisted for the best part of a decade, to the point that the project has achieved a near-mythical status – in grime terms comparable perhaps to Dr Dre’s ‘Detox’. Prez acknowledges the sporadic nature of his presence in the scene on opener ‘What You On?’, which sets the listener up for what will hopefully be twelve tracks of vintage President T – lacing a rumbling, bass heavy instrumental with his signature off-kilter flow.
So, does ‘Stranger Returns’ deliver? On first glance, the absence of tracks such as ‘Jail’, a fan favourite first heard on DJ Scope’Em’s Rinse show and immediately ripped to YouTube, might disappoint. So, too, might the lack of verses from Prez’s Bloodline affiliates, though there are features from both Wiley and D Double E, a demonstration of Prez’s heavyweight standing in the scene.
What will really matter to long-time fans of the MC, though, is that he rarely deviates from a formula honed over nearly two decades on the mic, spitting his truly idiosyncratic lyrics, usually in a rhetorical question and answer format. Highlights include ‘Straps Outside’ and ‘Bout That Life’, where he draws for the sound he once described as “champion music” – horns, trumpets and bass – to great effect.
Weaker tracks opt for a more hyperbolic, trap influenced sound, which fit less well with his vocal style, but also signal the willingness he has shown throughout his career to work with producers of all stripes.
Though not an instant classic when compared with ‘Back Inna My Face Vol 1’, ‘Stranger Returns’ is a solid album from an ever-reliable MC, with plenty of oddball bars that will stick in your head and have you pulling it back.
Words: Alex McFadyen
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