The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


If Only You Knew: Grime & Drill For September Reviewed By Aaron Bishop
Aaron Bishop , September 8th, 2020 08:11

Aaron Bishop selects his top picks from the UK rap scene including returns for Bugzy Malone and Nines, and heat from Hardy Caprio, Skepta, Octavian and more


In the current climate of trial by social media - loosely labelled "cancel culture" - many a celebrity has fallen foul of the internet. Being online can create a false sense of security when it comes to expressing ideas that are perhaps in need of more thought or better kept private altogether. From Lana Del Rey and Chrissy Teigen to Geko and Octavian, navigating the online space is obviously not easy but is a necessary skill, especially when we're talking about people in the public eye.

Last month the Godfather of Grime, Wiley, became the latest star to add a permanent stain to his legacy, after a series of antisemitic tweets led to a police investigation following 12 officers being sent to his house, the Home Secretary wading in, him being banned on all major social networks (including YouTube) and his music being removed from major streaming services. But while the majority of us would agree that there is no defence to be made for Wiley's comments, there is still a wider conversation to be had surrounding his social media de-platforming.

For example, Katie Hopkins has made a career from inciting racial hatred through inflammatory comments and has only recently been permanently banned from Twitter after years of causing offence to a wide demographic of people. When her permanent suspension did finally come in June of this year it was said to be due to "hateful conduct," not racism explicitly, and her other social media accounts are still very much active. Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the EDL, is another who has made a career out of spouting racist rhetoric and has remained consistently visible on the national stage and free to spread his views to the masses with few, if any, repercussions (he has served two custodial sentences but neither was connected to his many bigoted pronouncements).

Our own Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who regarded Wiley's comments as "abhorrent," has a long and colourful record of sexist, homophobic and racist commentary. He has referred to black people as "piccaninnies" with "watermelon smiles," compared Muslim women to "letterboxes" and suggested that Malaysian women only go to university "to find men to marry." Despite all of these missteps and offensive remarks, he has still managed to forge a path to the most powerful position in the country when his career should arguably have run aground decades ago.

The same outrage that was generated by Wiley's statements is not always as easy to discern when the subject of vile commentary happens to be black people and the people making those statements happen to be white. In fact it sometimes appears that when white people make these grossly offensive statements, they aren't censured but rewarded.

Let me be clear, Wiley's comments are inexcusable and indefensible, but if his punishment is social exile, then the same hand of justice must come down on all who have done the same and even profited from it. The crime has never been in question, we need only ask if the punishment fits.

Nines - Crabs In A Bucket

Heralded as one of the UK's finest rappers, if there was any indication needed as to the status of Nines in the rap game, as well as the anticipation behind his third studio album, Crabs In A Bucket, a quick look at Twitter's timeline on the night before release day would've given you all the necessary evidence. The North West Londoner doesn't saturate the market with content but when he does drop, it's guaranteed to be quality, as his previous two albums can attest to. He's delivered time and time again from 2015's One Foot In mixtape to 2018's critically acclaimed Crop Circle and he can add another project to the collection with album number three. 

Fans were beginning to get itchy feet as to when they could expect new music from the rapper before he reappeared with 'Clout', which was accompanied by a video inspired by and paying tribute to some of the greats such as Prince, Dizzee Rascal, Big Daddy Kane and Master P. This was later followed by the NSG-assisted 'Airplane Mode'. Such is the lyrical prowess of Nines that it seems, inadvertently or not, he'S set the bar for his features to reach even higher as the calibre of writing across the board is top tier. Acts such as Skrapz, Nafe Smallz, Roy Woods, Frosty and Tiggs da Author (among others) all put their best feet forward with every track being a healthy addition to their respective catalogues.

There's so much I could say about this album from content to production, but without diving too deep, the early reception from fans seems to be positive. Many feel it is not his best work but it still runs to a high standard. It's personally my favourite Nines album to date.

Hardy Caprio - '9 Lives'

It's not summertime until you get a banger from Hardy Caprio. The last few years have seen us blessed with songs such as 'Unsigned' and 'Best Life' around this time of year, but this year he's offering something slightly different with '9 Lives'. Not quite an obvious summer smash, there's still an airy quality in its sparse production, which allows the focus to be placed more on his bars.

2020 has seen a resurgence from the Croydon rapper after a rather quiet 2019. With collaborations with SL and Kwengface, as well as a few other singles, it's clear that Hardy's been busy during his time out of the spotlight. His first project since 2017's The Hollywood EP is almost certainly on the way and the scene will be all the better for it when it does eventually arrive.

Bugzy Malone - 'M.E.N III'

'Valar Morghulis', which translates to "all men must die," is a phrase that many Game Of Thrones fans will be familiar with, but the real-life King of the North, Bugzy Malone, got another chance at life after crashing his quad bike in March of this year. At the time, nurses told him he was "lucky to be alive," with his injuries then not thought to be life-threatening, considering the scale of the accident and the wreckage left in the aftermath. But he later suffered from bleeding on the brain and a blood clot in his chest.

This month has seen him return to the limelight, giving thanks to fans and healthcare workers on Instagram as well as dropping the third instalment of his M.E.N (Manchester Evening News) series. This entry serves as a testament to his journey with the first having come in 2015. Back then he was making the news for altercations in nightclubs, while this time around his status as a public figure saw his accident make the news nationwide.

The song delves into his road to recovery and details his struggles with mental health, drugs and even suicide. As has been the case since the start of his career, Bugzy is an open book on 'M.E.N. III'. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger is the message, and Bugzy is well on his way to coming back stronger than ever before. This is, as he calls it, The Resurrection.

JB Scofield - 'This Is That'

JB Scofield is one of those artists that seemingly flies under the radar but when you delve into his catalogue, listeners may be pleasantly surprised when they realise just how many hits he actually has to his name. Perhaps best known for 'Stretch It', which has become one those FIFA songs that lives long in the memory, 'This Is That' is another characteristically JB Scofield track in every sense of the word. Coming with a catchy hook, a bass-heavy beat and clever bars, it could be argued that the Amsterdam-born, Leicester-raised rapper doesn't get the credit he deserves. This may be true, but if so, he's only one undeniable hit away from moving up a few tiers in the rap game.

D Power Diesle x Skepta - 'Sniper'

Younger fans of UK grime may not be as familiar with D Power Diesle, who is no newcomer to the scene, as others. His latest project, Graphene Vol. 1, could be considered to be a re-introduction of sorts though. Featuring a who's who of grime names including Footsie, Jammz and the Wiley, among others, it's 'Sniper', with Skepta, that grabbed my attention and has almost certainly introduced a whole new set of fans to him.

The track sees the pair going back to back over a beat from leading producer Silencer, which features references to classic sets on pirate radio station Deja Vu, old school promoters Mix It Up and nods to the early years of the scene. The video also includes cameo appearances from some familiar faces such as the Boy Better Know squad. With the second instalment of the EP series set to appear before the end of the year, and features from D Double E and Manga Saint Hilare already confirmed, it looks as though D Power has more to offer for those just getting to know him.

Headie One ft AJ Tracey & Stormzy - 'Ain't It Different'

After securing the holy grail that is a Drake feature last month, Headie One is not losing any momentum as he gears up for the release of his debut album proper, Edna, titled in dedication to his mother. It's fitting then for him to precede it by calling on two heavyweights of the scene in AJ Tracey and Stormzy to feature on 'Ain't It Different'.

Produced by Fred Again, as well as Toddla T, 'Ain't It Different' is the first taste of what's to come from Edna and samples the Red Hot Chili Peppers' 'Pretty Little Ditty' and M-Dubs' UK garage classic 'Bump And Grind', as well as interpolating lyrics from Lady Saw's late '90s dancehall tune 'No Long Talking'. I can't help but think that Stormzy could've come harder with his verse, especially considering what Headie did for him on 'Audacity' (from last year's Heavy Is The Head), but there's no denying that the track has introduced Headie to a wider audience.

Jelani Blackman - 'Tricky'

Jelani Blackman is a name that I've heard around for a while but I've never really paid much attention to until now. Sometimes you come across artists in the most unexpected of ways and for me it was an Instagram advert for a live version of his latest single 'Tricky'. His deep voice is instantly captivating as he opens up about the struggles he faces as a black man in London, politics, gang warfare and racial inequality, all while soulful backing vocals and piano keys add gravitas and weight to the smooth production. Shot in the shadow of the Grenfell Tower, the video depicts how two people from the same area can live extremely different lives. It's thought provoking rap without being too in your face, and is a lane that he has the potential, as well as the ability, to dominate.

Knucks - 'Thames'

After inking a deal with Island Records, last year saw North West London's Knucks deliver his first project as a signed artist with the NRG 105 EP. This year has seen him further build on that with songs such as 'Jubilee', '7 Days' and one of my personal favourite tracks of the year, 'FXCKED UP', which features Sam Wise.

The latter is set to be included in his upcoming project London Class which is out on Friday (September 11), but to tide us over until then he's delivered a head-bopping offering in 'Thames'. The jazz-tinged production – complete with saxophone – is co-produced by DotInc and Knucks himself, and provides perfect foil for his slick bars and confident delivery. The track is vintage Knucks, and between this and 'FXCKED UP', the indication is there that we can expect a range of sounds from his new EP. All you can ask from an artist is growth and if these two singles are anything to go by, he should soon come to the wider attention he deserves.

Octavian, Gunna & SAINt JHN - 'Famous'

For his second transatlantic collaboration of the year, British-French rapper Octavian has linked up with Gunna and SAINt JHN on new track 'Famous', which follows the Future-featuring 'Rari'. The new single, produced by the in-demand Jae5, is also the second offering from the London-based artist's forthcoming debut album, which is due out later this year with Skepta thought to be taking on executive production duties.

Focusing on the negative aspects of fame and celebrity culture, Octavian shows off his ear for melody with a typically catchy hook, and secures solid contributions from his American counterparts. Sometimes when American and UK artists link up we're left with throwaway verses but that isn't the case this time around. It was even a shock for me to see Future in the video for 'Rari' (despite featuring on the track), which maybe speaks to the relationships Octavian has been cultivating during his time in the US and the respect he is earning amongst his peers due to his talent. It's interesting that the three features from the first two album singles haven't included any UK artists but it would be surprising if that was the case with the final product.

K1 - 'Shiggy'

Remember those happier times pre-COVID-19 when dance challenges like the ‘Kiki/In My Feelings’ challenge flooded the internet? Cue sunshine and rainbows Social media star Shiggy rose to fame during that particular trend and while we haven't heard too much from him in the last few years, that hasn't stopped West London rapper K1 from naming his latest track after him.

Set against the backdrop of a haunting drill instrumental, K1 expertly rides the beat, taking on various flows and delivering an infectious hook: “Wizzy… money make the gyaldem dance like Shiggy/ Said she wanna come with her bredrin, she's a deadting, that's a bit iffy." Overall, 'Shiggy' is a tune that is sure to get even the stiffest of roadmen doing a little shuffle at a barbeque as we drain out the last dregs of the British summer.