President T or Prez T when he’s not on his presidential tours to greet his loyal grime citizens in the (Meridian) manors, was hanging in the wings for 2 years since his last full album ‘T on the Wing’ released December 2016; which means we have to see with him that he may judge his temporary hiatus as making him a stranger on the scene. It may have been 2 years but with solid features on Manga’s ‘Outburst from the outskirts’ and Wiley’s ‘Godfather’ albums’ last year, ensuring he never strayed too far from our minds, to fully firm up his status as a stranger, but we are thankful for his return. Prez T’s second offering is packed full of darkly dangerous beats and tense rhythms giving this body of work a distinctly ominous feel, further amplified by the most identifiable voice in the Grime scene. (Giggs takes that title over the way, in the UK rap world) My highlight of ‘A stranger returns’ is not in fact a full track but a skit entitled “You’re taking the p! ss” which seems to sum up my dialogue this year so far! One listen to this skit and gyaldem will find a new anthem neatly packaged in a 2 min 19 seconds skit! Another track which perfectly captures the over exposure I’ve had this year to this particular group of people, ‘Gassed up yutes.’ President T chants “I’m sick of these gassed up yutes (no P’s), I’m sick of these gassed up yutes (No girl), won’t go jail for the gassed up yutes” in his simultaneous monosyllabic yet charismatic tone. We also have Wiley returning the favour to Prez T by appearing on the track to deliver as always; a fire verse. You’ve got every reason to make this stranger a friend of your iPod, one of the must have downloads of 2018.
Grime’s bastion in matters of politics, Novelist, released his debut album ‘Novelist Guy’, April 2018. The former square stalwart saw a meteoric rise since 2013, when he clashed with Cadell and soon after dropped one of my favourite Grime EP’s in recent years ‘1 Sec’ alongside producer Mumdance. Personally I had marked Novelist as one to watch when he was invited by Skepta to tour North America and Toronto for Skepta’s ‘Top Boy’ documentary. Watching the documentary showed a young man who was focused driven and grateful to be given the opportunity to be mentored by a prominent Grime figure like Skepta. What also strikes me about Novelist is his passion for politics which are ravaging communities not just within the UK but also across the Atlantic in the U.S. Novelist demonstrated this passion literally, by marching in solidarity with ‘Black lives matter’s’ UK movement, in central London, 2016; holding aloft a poster emblazoned with the message ‘Stop killin’ the mandem’, in protest against police shootings of black men in the U.S and police brutality in the UK. The innate awareness and wisdom Novelist possesses is ingrained within his debut album, ‘Novelist Guy’ released 13th April 2018.
The album opens with a hesitant plucking piano, as though the player (Novelist himself?) is unsure of whether to proceed into the full body of the album, it’s a curious opener enticing the listener to wonder what’s coming next, as a dance like 80’s synth enters, Novelist sincerely stresses that he’s, “Only here to do the honesty ting.” Novelist brings what I like to term junk yard grime to ‘Dot Dot Dot’ with clanging metal flying everywhere, what sounds like a robots mechanical heart beating, an off kilter riddim and speaker shuddering B-lines to satisfy the skankers amongst us. ‘Gangster’ is eerily quirky in a demented crazy circus type of way, as I can imagine jigsaw from ‘saw’ riding around on his rusty tricycle of terror, in a house of waxworks as it plays. Novelists’ flow is purposely stilted and staggered as we get a run down on how to adhere to roadman street code by “Minding your own, watch your tone, don’t be asking questions, snitches go to the station and start coughing up confession…” ‘Afro pick’ contains a cautionary instrumental which wouldn’t go amiss on a hammer horror film score where king of the vampires Christopher Lee would indulge in vampire antics donning a bally with holes for his fangs to hang! Nov also flips BBK’s acronym on its head with the lyric “Boy better know but man better hear / hair.” – Wordplay wizardry deyah!!
A highlight on the album is Novelist turning his powerful slogan from his BLM poster, into a fully fledged track with ‘Stop killin’ the mandem.’ It’s a modern / old skool track, drawing from the archives of grime, with its squelching slime, popping bubbles and sega sound effects laced throughout the track. It is one of Novelist’s most important statements on the album, as he poignantly states “Crime don’t have a skin tone, would you wanna kill or hurt your own? No didn’t think so, Listen up when your inner voice says no, Bro look at your soul…” I’d advise anyone to listen to this track at least 3 times in a row as there are valuable lessons embedded within. Nov continues to sprinkle a healthy dose of strange on the album with the track ‘Wait Wait Wait’ which quite frankly sounds like a swarm of electronic bees in the midst of mass malfunction, as Nov repeatedly chants “Wait wait wait wait wait, why you want a slice of my cake” like a voodoo shaman casting a curse on the greedy and needy.
The B-line from ‘Dot Dot Dot’ bounces over 9 tracks to revisit the head-nodder ‘Man Jump up’ which by the way is the law when this track tumps from your speakers, the outro of the track plays like Pac man got salty, and armed himself with a miniature rocket shaped gun which expels baby bursts of flames on any opps nearby. I’m also a big a fan of Novelists’ use of the word “Crikey” throughout ‘this track giving it a stamp of British identity whilst giving a shout out to our commonwealth cuzzy’s in Oz! Tracks such as ‘Happiness in the cold’ and ‘Smiles’ with their far east backdrops (possibly inspired by Novelist’s guest appearance on Skepta’s 2016 ‘Konnichiwa’ album) feel bittersweet as it becomes ever more challenging to stay smiling when the ends can feel like a cold place to be, but despite that Novelist is determined to stay positive and wants us all to join him as he spits encouragingly “Bare smiles, bare smiles, no frowns in the bits.” Novelist has managed to tell truthful tales from the hood over nostalgic beats on his debut album, and has mastered the art of repetition with his lyrics, a theme which runs throughout the album. Novelist does not repeat his bars because he has nothing else to say he repeats them because he wants you to absorb the importance of what he sprays!