To categorise enigmatic South London rapper SL as a UK drill artist would be a mistake. 2017’s ‘Gentleman’ is a certified drill classic. But from that point onwards, the soundscapes over which he delivers his conversational, unhurried bars have been sonically expansive, encompassing so much that is great about Black British music and beyond.
SL is also meticulous in how he drops music, astutely drip-feeding us with work of the highest grade. His second EP, ‘Selhurst SE25’ is a continuation of this. With a running time of 11 minutes, and American beat-maker Kenny Beats producing three of its four tracks, the project is a lean, polished exercise in leaving listeners wanting more.
Thematically, we are in familiar territory. SL’s world is full of loud to smoke and girls to smoke it with. He’s got an abundance of both, but he might just take yours as well. There are opps and threats too, although it never feels like they’re at the forefront of his mind. His ability to glide effortlessly over a beat steers the vibe away from nihilism. This could be an illusion. Or maybe SL is seeing beyond the environment he came up in.
The three Kenny Beats collaborations are trap-laced, bass heavy anthems. The mellow flutes on ‘Bad Luck’ marry perfectly with SL’s laidback flow, while the looped violins of ‘Little Bird’ give a transatlantic mafioso feel to his boasts of sexual conquests and stick ups. And for a young man who keeps his cards close to his chest, this track also hints at SL’s long term vision: “Hit the milli mark, then invest in some capital.”
Despite enlisting a US super-producer for the majority of the EP, it’s the kwes produced, distinctly UK energy of ‘Hit The Block’ which stands out. The industrial menace of the production offers an ideal platform for SL and Coventry’s Pa Salieu to let off with icy, in-your-face verses. It’s a smart choice for project opener, making a firm statement that our cold island is the launchpad for both artist’s inevitable greatness.
SL’s refusal to be boxed in by one specific sound while keeping it unapologetically London has made him so rewarding to listen to. ‘Selhurst SE25’ is a further demonstration of this artistic maturity, pointing towards a bright future, way above our blocks and grey clouds.
Words: Robert Kazandjian
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