While 2020 keeps hitting us with surprises, not all of them are unwanted: an unexpected album from three titans of UK rap is what fans needed right now. Skepta and Chip are long-established, whilst Young Adz has put in recent legwork with D-Block Europe, galvanising his sound and cementing his place as a leader in the current scene.
The intro track sees all three on form, pushing each other – a sign of what's in store for the rest of the album. There’s high energy from the off, which continues onto ‘Mains’, where the influence of D-Block Europe is notable, with trap infused beats and constant breaks and switches. That’s not to say the whole record follows the same style. With ‘Golden Brown’, for example, Skepta softens the tone with Thin Lizzy’s classic ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ on the hook and changing up the flow for a reflective verse. And although each track shows off each artists’ range, usually one takes control of the overall direction and flow. Take Young Adz’s wavy melodies and drug induced lyrics that lead ‘Waze’, and set the pace and topic of discussion for Skepta and Chip.
One thing is consistent though: production is on point throughout. Standout moments include the bassy refix of MIA’s classic ‘Paper Planes’ on ‘St Tropez’, and midway through the project – before the sounds become too similar – production switches up for the garage infused 'Mic Check'. Each artist centres on the topic of women, Chip making subtle innuendos referencing classics like ‘Flowers’ and ‘Please Don’t Turn Me On’ while Young Adz is more straight-up: "She said can you fill me in to Craig David.”
All three artists are known to brag about facets of their life of riches and fame, but they all let down their guard for ‘Traumatised’. Opening up on their vulnerabilities, Adz indirectly points a finger at one reason for his heavy drug use, admitting he spends "10 stacks on therapy because I’m traumatised", whilst Chip concedes: “Ain’t feelin' myself but fans still want a selfie." ‘Sin City’ is a standout, with all three on top form, demonstrating their strengths over a dark multifaceted beat. Skepta comes through with his certified skippy flow and undeniable ‘greaze’, Chip flaunts his ability to speed up and slow down effortlessly, whilst Adz’s melody and lyrics instantly darken the mood.
The three work well as a collective: Chip provides the cut-throat and fresh bars, Adz comes with the melody and Skepta is free to experiment throughout. The beats stand up too, consonantly switching patterns and breaks and bringing the best out of each artist. Keep the surprises coming 2020, the good ones at least.
Words: Joe Hale
Dig it? Dig deeper: JME, Yizzy, Yxng Bane
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