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No Favours James Butterworth , May 27th, 2020 09:00

Featuring guest spots from the likes of JME, Durrty Goodz, and Casisdead, grime stalwart Footsie releases his debut solo album after two decades in the game

Ask a bunch of grime heads to name the best producers in the scene and inevitably Footsie’s name will come up. Active since the turn of the millennium, the Forest Gate artist has produced a huge back catalogue of grime instrumentals, as well as making frequent forays into other genres including dubstep and trap.

Beats like ‘Scars’, ‘Arnie’ and ‘Big Band’ solidified his status as a pioneer of the sound, but he is an accomplished MC as well. Coming up through the Nasty Crew, which also birthed Kano and Ghetts amongst others, he appeared on the first edition of Lord of the Mics, clashing Roll Deep’s Scratchy. After leaving Nasty Crew, he teamed up with fellow former members D Double E and Monkstar to form the Newham Generals. Monkstar took a long hiatus from music early on, so the Newham Generals carried on as a duo, becoming fans’ favourites with their album Generally Speaking and hits including ‘Head Get Mangled’, ‘Like It Or Not’ and ‘Levels’.

Now, two decades into his stellar career and following numerous instrumental releases, Footsie brings us his first solo album as a vocalist, No Favours. It’s a diverse release with numerous highlights and an impressive roster of features. ‘Pepper Stew’, featuring Boy Better Know stalwart JME, sees the two trading verses over a bouncing, skippy bassline. “Lived the life of a nutter / I used to roll with a knife and the butter… I had a front row seat in the gutter”, spits Footsie, casting his mind back to darker days before grime stardom. The macabre tone is also felt on ‘Restless Jack’, where Footsie teams up with cult rapper Casisdead over a horror film inspired orchestral rhythm, one of his own productions. There are more upbeat moments; ‘Hills of Zion’, featuring Durrty Goodz and Frisco and also produced by Footsie, sees ragga-style bars delivered around a reggae sample used to construct an earworm of a hook.

“Don’t do me no favours, I don’t need it / Thanks for the offer, it’s cool I’ll leave it”, Footsie raps on the title track ‘No Favours’, asserting his independence. He’s just as strong left to his own devices as he is rallying alongside other MCs. On ‘Finesse’, featuring a warped, whirring bass courtesy of Chase And Status, he reminds us of his longevity (“big boy baiders, original jungle ravers”), while on ‘Pattern & Program’ he resurrects an old, previously unreleased beat by Skream. It’s the high point of the album, Footsie dishing out his most intricate, multisyllabic battle bars – “I’ve been doing this way past 16 years, you know me I’m a Lord of the Mic fam, I will clash more than 16 brehs”.

No Favours should stand up against any other project as one of the best grime releases this year. In any case it’s refreshing to see him take centre stage and showcase his full range of musical ability. A career-long association with D Double E, your favourite MC’s favourite MC, would be enough to overshadow any lesser artist. But Footsie has managed to carve out his own path over the past two decades, forging his own place in the scene and taking on luminary status. Far from slowing down as he gets older, No Favours shows he’s only getting stronger.