Ard Adz – No Rain No Flowers

One of the scene’s unsung heroes, Ard Adz has been consistent to say the least, one of the few underground acts to have a solid fanbase, to where everyone else had to take notice. For some time now the rapper had been overlooked, but no more, as he follows up on an array of mixtapes with his new EP, No Rain, No Flowers.

Heavy with the street raps, many of his fans noticed a more conscious theme creeping, as he began to bring his faith further into the music, something that merely highlights his transparency as an artist. Unafraid to share emotion, where many may fear the backlash, it was even more appreciated and added to the familiarity that audiences felt with him.

With No Rain No Flowers, Adz gives us 6 tracks, that help establish not only where he’s at, but the intentions as he continues on, starting with the intro, Dirty’s Pain

where he unapologetically flows, weaving between his love for his people, but the lack of trust, his ambition to succeed but his disgust of the shady industry, it plays well setting up for the current anthem What’s Gwarning

Classic Adz, as he details the street life, going back and forth with feature Bellzey, “My brother said life is a gamble, so I’m hitting life at all angles, I got the steel on my waist, it beats like I got it off Banglez”, through the catchy flows, there’s still lyricism and metaphors present (as with that line he shows love to producer Steel Banglez). He makes it seem so easy, it’s almost his signature, which he carries on into the Oye Oye Freestyle. The EP thus far is catering to his core audiences, as he opts to stay loyal to his rap roots, with the S Wavey collab, Cause Jahanam, over the classic Alchemist production, it’s a casual vibe, thats sets up the next track perfectly, the standout Fast Lane. “What have I become, I’m a devil to the lord, but an angel to my son..”, the track depicts his struggle with life and religion a little further, with an assured take on him finding his balance. With talk of an album soon to come, the last two tracks help steer into that direction, including the last track My Ak. A relatable track, for many with people locked up, and it shows the loyal soul that he is, through this introspective cut.

In the first track, he says, “I’d still rather sign to my son than Virgin..”, in the last, he says, “I’d rather sign to my son before Def Jam..”, such strong indications of his anti-label stance, and with the content given, he’s certainly not looking to compromise in the slightest. There are many of his fans, who comment and mention his ability to provide beyond the gangsta rap, but for now the South London artist is clearly looking to cement his legacy within what he knows best.

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Sleeks (Section Boyz) – Narcos

“What You Talkin’ ‘Bout”

The Section member takes it back to the early days with this solo cut, produced by Nyge

“Came up from the block, now we shut down shows..”

For those following Section Boyz before the MOBO wins, they’ll be familiar with the squad’s solo efforts, and this was reminiscent of those. Sleeks gave us Gear 6 last year and is back with his energetic personality and road roots, flowing sturdy over this Nyge production. It’s typical Sleeks, that picturesque street rap, sounding so effortless, with those listening no doubt catching some dope quotables. It’s a nice lil’ offering whilst they ready up the next official Section Boyz project. This year already, we’ve had Swift – Bestfriend, and the track with Loski, and another with Inch, Littlez gave us Tugstyle, and the super underrated 2017 freestyle from Deepee, not to mention the collective efforts with Me Too and OMDs, so stay locked with the gang for more to come.

Section!

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Wizzy Wow X Big Zeeks – Freequently

Wizzy Wow is no stranger to vibes, having produced so many for a variety of UK acts, so this time he links up with up and comer Big Zeeks for this new one

This should have dropped pre-summer, it’s definitely got that feel to it, but regardless, Zeeks’ catchy flow fits perfectly on this Wizzy Wow & Prince Galalie production. It’s one of those tracks, where if it was a more known act, it would find itself on radio rotation and in every club DJs mix, so I hope people definitely take to it like it deserves. Wizzy has been around for a while now, and continues to experiment with sound and styles, whilst Zeeks is one the rise with a recent string of underground hits, so it’s great to see the two link up and create something as cool.

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Chase N. Cashe – All I Wanna do

The Heir returns, never not working, the talented producer has been on a strong run as an artist, and while a lot of the wave can get overlooked, especially when you’re one of the best producers out there, it’s hard to get the required support when you jump behind the mic, but not one to sit back, the New Orleans rep flows smooth over this equally wavy LewKaine production

Every time I started typing out a quote, he said something else even more fire, and that’s exactly what to expect from him, as this serves as an even better introduction into confident, clear-minded and ambitious talent that he is. It’s certainly one of my favourite tracks from him already.

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Blay Vision – Turner Ave.

The young producer has been forging his own sound over time, notable behind the boards, producing vibes for a variety of MC’s (most recently Phaze What – Neva Dat), though he’s proving more than able behind the mic also, and with Skepta broadening the parameters of Grime, Blay is one of the up and coming acts to utilise the freedom. His 2017 release Turner Ave might be one of the top Grime projects of the year (amongst the likes of Manga St Hilaire’s Outbursts From The Outskirts).

It’s clear from the get go with These Guys, as an assured Blay lays out the mindset and his intentions,

and the project backs that sentiment, as though you can hear certain influences, overall it really stands alone from whatever else is out at the moment. Track 2, Fully Involved, one of my favourite productions this year, and I’m glad that he attempts to have substance, as if he’s aware of what the production provides, allowing him to structure more thoughtfully, and from a humble perspective of an up and coming act, so the content fits well. I find myself separating the production at times, but in all honesty, I can hear he’s more seasoned as a producer, but the flows are impressive, more so the stories he weaves and the lessons he attempts to stitch together, it’s really well crafted. I really like how the project flows, he most definitely thought about performances, as tracks like the hype Skeen, will undoubtedly get the crowd jumping, and through the raw delivery, there’s lines to take in, “I know man that’ll marry your mum, come to the country and dun your clart”, that’s a reload right there!

[I recognise good ol’ Southampton, after I spent the last couple years there]

Around track 7, there’s a minimal shift, but if you’ve come this far, you’re certainly hearing the rest of the project less critically, like the vibezy My G’s, with it’s catchy hook and satisfyingly piercing synths,

I’m proud of his evolution thus far, from the early sounds of his I have on my old laptop, a more refined sound, and it continues with the JME featured Gone Mad,

he’s back at it right after with Free Mo, which is more him flexing his MC abilities, switching up the flow, and it’s a more musical approach, as it’s another well structured effort that I can see working well live. I like tracklists that aren’t predictable, and as he begins to show his versatility, this is just that, an array of tempos and styles, one minute your just nodding your head to Amnesia,

the next you’re tuned in, relating to the introspective and open Normal, “Anxiety got me thinking a madness, I just wanna be normal”. 

Such records really highlight his abilities, beyond a talented producer, crafting quality songs, whilst still being able to give you the more performance based bangers like 99 Pace

and the final track on the project, Violent, which gives you a more confident Blay, it’s as if you’ve travelled on a journey through the project, and that’s what you want, from an artist’s perspective and listeners alike. It takes a lot of effort to put together a project, let alone visuals and without the support of masses it can be a hit or miss, so props to him as he carves out a moment for himself with Turner Ave, an array of sounds and flows, all rolled up into a dope project.

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Wholagun – Solution To The Problem

It’s been a long time coming. The South London rapper forged an almost legendary street status, an OG to many of the up and coming stars today, Wholagun had found some early success with a string of hits 3 to 5 years ago, generating a decent amount of views and following, however, for various reasons, it felt like he had not entirely made the transition into rap, not to mention the scene was not as healthy then. In the past couple years he followed through with some more freestyles and street bangers, with fans almost demanding an entire project, and so today, those wishes are granted, as we finally get the release of a full body of work, Solution To The Problem.

8 Tracks, fit to satisfy the core fans, but with enough range to introduce himself to new ones alike. Wholagun can rap, there is no denying it, what makes him some of your favourite rapper’s favourite rapper, is his versatility, flows for days, and as his brand increases, as will the content, with this EP showing early glimpses of just that. It starts with the lead single Dirty, it’s straight forward, easy to digest, and catchy, Wholagun has pretty much perfected the British trap sound, proven with the next track Weighty Cheque, following a similar format, as did Pretty & Bad, maybe I wanted more from him because I know what he is capable of, so initially I was disappointed, but couple more listens later and they’ve grown on me, the flow patterns and punchlines do it justice.

You can never judge from a couple tracks, and that’s exactly the case with this project, as track 4 takes a more melodic turn, “the game is mine, I rap, I sing, I’m taking the piss..”, and he is, the fan in me was vibezing, and the part that wants to see his talents rewarded was pleased, because it’s quality enough to be put up there with the current crop, one criticism I had, and If I was in the studio with him, I would say, to avoid the repetitive choruses, saying that, on this record, it made sense, and fit well. It might just be a personal choice and in fairness a lot of the biggest tracks out today have similar hooks, but I do believe he is talented enough to do better, and I just wouldn’t want anyone thinking otherwise.

I realise that because I’ve been waiting for this for long, I’m almost judging it, in all fairness, this is a re-introduction, as he re-asserts himself, letting you know, who he is out here, “I don’t wanna hear about big man, when you ain’t bigger than man”. The get money motivation is strong throughout, and by track 5, I realised he’s giving you doses of genius, easily digested, “I just got a call from the plug, got the front room looking like ‘dam”, this exact ability to paint a picture lyrically is why so many have loyally waited for this. Best thing about the project is that it only continues to get better with each song, bringing us to track 6, Be Rich, an introspective take on that previously mentioned motivation, is one of the standout tracks, “I’m tryna get that bread, my daughter needs her pizza, I’m tryna leave the ends…ain’t tryna rise that heat up”, he further delves into his desires to really establish himself in this game, making no mistake that it’s going to take hard work.

My early criticism/disappointment might not have made sense, me knowing he is capable of more, and when you hear track 7, you can understand, out of nowhere there’s a track catering to the ladies, and in no way has he had to compromise, nor is it a reach in any way, there’s strength in vulnerability, “feeling a way when you hug me, I feel like the man..only God is above me”, Winner it’s quite soulful, and very much appreciated, making it another standout. The last two tracks might be the best, with Real Talk 3 really cementing Wholagun at his best, the insightful raps, engulfed in wisdom, it’s human, it’s the epitome of what rap is for many, that inspiration, to keep going. “Every days a blessing, I just wanna see us all progressing, feel like everyone fights depression, ’til you realise your minds a weapon”.

I wanted to end it at that bar, powerful, emotive, important, that is Wholagun, who has given us a quality body of work, that he can only build upon as he continues his imminent rise to the top.

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The Retreat (The return of Adam Deacon)

From his memorable role in the now classic Kidulthood, followed by his directorial debut with the somewhat parody Anuvahood, further cementing his ability as the lead character, Adam Deacon has provided some quality moments for many of us, inspiring a whole generation of comics and actors embracing street dialect and mannerisms, which before, seemed incredibly rare. Maybe, it was the lifestyle, maybe pressures, things behind the scenes, or just personal angst, but things took a toll on the young talent, and without delving into the details, the 2012 Bafta award winner found himself shunned out of the spotlight by the negativity that ensued.

The next we heard, was him embracing his errors and focused to rewrite the wrongs, an advocate for raising awareness on Mental Health amongst young men, he bravely opened up, and shared his story, but still that early promise shown appeared distant. Now 2017, and the culture (and scene) which he is a part of, seemed to have moved on, the new crop being heralded, that relevancy faded further. On Wednesday night I came across the Park Theatre (London) website, showing a new play titled, The Retreat, starring Adam Deacon, with the majority of the performances within the week Sold Out, there was just one seat left for Thursdays, and so I went.

The Retreat, written by Sam Bain (co-creator of the Peep Show), Directed by Kathy Burke, starring Yasmine Akram, Samuel Anderson, and Adam Deacon. With Samuel’s character Luke, at a Buddhist retreat in the Highlands, as he looks to escape his City life, only for his brother Tony (Deacon) to show up.

I write this having returned from the experience. I was just in time as I annoyingly squeezed past those already sat, found my seat whilst the performance began, with Luke (Samuel Anderson) meditating in absolute silence, before Tony (Adam Deacon) enters to disrupt it. That initial silence compared to the lengthy round of applause they received at the end was worlds apart, a further testament to the overall performance.

Anderson and Akram were great, and not to take anything away from them, but Deacon stole the show. I left truly believing that everything happens for a reason, as I watched an audience mostly twice our age (maybe more), from completely different backgrounds, grinning from ear to ear at his performance, uncontrollable laughter as he delivered his lines perfectly, his timing impeccable, his presence impressive. Whether it was a serious scene or him dancing to Giggs and Donae’o – Lock Doh, the level of performance did not dip in the slightest, if anything, it just got better and better. Sam Bain created a dope concept, with a meaningful premise, relatable to many, neatly wrapped in humour and emotion, with Kathy Burke’s direction spot on, helping execute the show amazingly. The actors embodied the roles remarkably, they WERE those characters, it is easier to switch off at a live performance than a movie, yet they had the audience fixated until the very end. 90 minutes seemed almost not enough, you wanted more, as the story unfolded.

I really enjoyed the show (mid-way, I thought to myself, I might just come and see this again), and hope that more people get a chance to catch it, especially those who may not be as hip to theatrical performances, it’s very well written, reminiscent of classic British comedies that we grew up on, with more modern relevance.

Furthermore, was great to see Adam Deacon shine again, someone who represents for so many, a lot who are overlooked in this country, so to witness him overcome adversity to deliver so well, seeing everyone (especially the old ladies) praise him as they left smiling, he can only improve and continue towards fulfilling his evident potential.

Mostly Sold Out, there’s some availability over this weekend, and early December, so if you can, check it out!

 

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XX17 Spotify Playlist

With us closer to the end of the year, I’ve curated another playlist, this time a selection of some of the best and underrated Hip-Hop, Grime, Alternative and R&B tracks of the year, thus far. The playlist hosts American, British and French tracks, that varies in tempo and style, featuring the likes of Giggs, PartyNextDoor, Post Malone, Wale, Sampha, Toro Y Moi & many more..

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Fumin – Quiet On Set (Produced by Dexplicit)

There is no denying the impact nor the now legendary status of the original Grime

anthem, Pow. So it’s with great excitement to see one of the standout MC’s return, reconnecting with the producer of the Forward riddim himself. Re-introducing (as a some of you might be unaware) none other than, Fumin.

Produced by Dexplicit, Quiet On Set rekindles a somewhat faded Grime feeling, and the return of Fumin is just that, with the nostalgic vibes of old Grime sets, the real place where you got to hear, where the respect was earned, where the name was made, before the transitioning of full on records, the pirate radio and club sets are embedded in the genre’s history. With this track, they bring you that very essence, that unrivalled energy pon mic.

I’m intrigued to see the reaction this track would get in a live setting, as it definitely would be more appreciated, or at least you would get to see it’s potential. More importantly, it’s great to see Fumin back in the mix (sounding like he never left), and I’m hopeful of more to come.

I encourage any new listeners to go check out his previous stuff, from features to mixtapes, beyond his infamous Pow verse.

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Pak-Man – Behind Barz (Take 4)

If you’re talking consistency, or one of the hardest out, you best mention Pak-Man.

There’s few going harder, as the South London rapper continues to elevate with the street rap. The lyrical wordsmith is one of the best with the entrepreneurial raps. With a variety of quotables, this doesn’t dip one bit, if anything, it just gets better as it continues. “Risking my life for this, rich..How i’m tryna live, it was embarrassing..when I never had a thing, now I ring dan..I need 8 grand to grab a ring, 20 on my wrist in the gym while I have a swim, still drippin’, roof still missin’ like Madeline..”. There ain’t many that can talk the talk, let alone as catchy with such a delivery, and maybe it’s a lack of features with notable names, but it’s only a matter of time when the rest will get it. Few are championing him and you won’t always hear the main ones speaking of promoting, but rest assured, with over 130,000 views within a month, Pak ain’t one to be held back and as much as many acts would love a core fanbase like his, he’s only developing it further, and you can see the growth over time, as he shows no signs of slowing down or conforming in his craft. Though the subjects may seem similar, the angles in which he approaches continue to offer versatility with bars like, “I’m sorry for the stress that I caused mum, I was out here tryna stack me some more funds, sorry that I couldn’t be the son that you wanted, you found drugs in my closet..then you flushed all the profit..”. 

“On the block with the junkies, got lost in the game like Jumanji, now my kicks cost me a monkey..”

If you haven’t, make sure you check out his latest release, Still Legendary, as for sure there is more fire to come from one of the hardest working acts out there.

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