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If Only You Knew: Grime & Drill For November Reviewed By Aaron Bishop
Aaron Bishop , November 9th, 2020 08:44

Aaron Bishop selects his top picks from the UK rap scene including albums from Headie One, Dizzee Rascal and Frisco and hits from Fredo and Digga D

Chip portrait by Jahnay Tennai

Legacy is a word and a concept that I’ve come across a lot in the last month or so, from the incident involving Wiley in the last column, through to the conversations I’ve had with grime royalty in D Double E and Dizzee Rascal - the latter of whom picked up the Legacy Award at the 2020 Rated Awards and is set to be awarded an MBE.

For artists their legacy is borne through their projects and the feelings evoked through their respective songs. Whatever the subject, however profound or superficial the lyrics, the best music touches the soul and captures the memories of a time or place, like the soundtrack to your first heartbreak or the street anthem that defines a night out at the club - something we can’t presently experience.

I once heard Chip say that an artist should always have a body of work to define them and this month’s column sees a few artists updating their catalogues, most notably Headie One’s debut album Edna named after his late mother. The album is arguably the most anticipated project of the year (so far at least) and has propelled him even further into the mainstream spotlight. But as exciting and important as releases like this are, it is just as important to take stock and pay homage to what has come before and remember the people who broke down those barriers and burst through those ceilings to make these new moments of history possible.

These sentiments and ideas can also be placed in a wider context than music due to the fact that it is currently Black History Month.

In a time of instant gratification, where everything is accessible at the click of a button, it is often the case that people are celebrated more in hindsight rather than in the moment. That makes it even more necessary to give people their flowers while they are still around to smell them - artists included. The aforementioned D Double E and Dizzee Rascal have both delivered new albums (honourable mention to Frisco too) which show exactly why they’ve maintained their status in the game for two decades, for which they should be applauded.

Those of you with eagle eyes will have noticed my subtle nods to the Chip vs Stormzy beef that shook the grime world earlier this month. It was only 2016 when they went back to back on ‘Hear Dis’ and even before that they linked up on ‘I’m Fine’. The pair being at loggerheads is probably a good thing for grime, with the claim to the mantle of King of the genre up in the air - albeit likely due to miscommunication on their part.

At the time of writing it remains to be seen whether Stormzy will reply and if Chip will indeed drop his teased mixtape, but it is almost certain that there are a lot more chapters of this story left to be written and, both artists’ legacies will be added to when all is said and done.

Chip - ‘Flowers’

7 October 2020 was the day that war-mode Chip returned with raging fury and burning passion as he released a double-barrelled shot at Stormzy through his diss tracks ‘Flowers’ and ‘Killer MC’. In truth this was just a warm-up, something to bait the South Londoner into engaging into his domain of lyrical clashing - something he’s mastered as evidenced in his infamous beefs with Bugzy Malone and Yungen five years ago.

Things have seemingly been bubbling beneath the surface between Chip and Stormzy with some interpreting lines in the former's track ‘Waze’ as subliminal shots, and Stormzy’s verse in the Tion Wayne smash ‘I Dunno’ featuring Big Mike and Dutchavelli, as a response. Those in the know are more of the opinion that the whole thing was just a misunderstanding and that Chip wasn’t even talking about Stormzy. But after giving him his address, it seems that Stormzy did indeed have a problem with the grime scene saviour and turned up at Chip’s house with a couple of goons on a seemingly gully vibe.

It was this perceived disrespect back in June that has seen Chip biding his time and waiting for the right opportunity to engage, and that he did with his double shot combination. With a mixtape coming soon and plenty more bullets in the chamber, Chip is more than ready for Stormzy to bring out his Wicked Skengman persona - something we haven’t seen in a while. With lines like, “Lord he was broken and you fixed him can you save him once again”, referring to the Croydon spitter's hit single ‘Blinded By Your Grace’, Chip is in red hot form and we should all know by now that he doesn’t run out of bars. This is going to be very interesting indeed.

Headie One - Edna

The last time I remember a UK artist's debut album greeted with such anticipation and expectation was Stormzy with Gang Signs & Prayer. If you take a look at Stormzy's trajectory since it will give you some understanding on some level, as to the potential of Headie One and the importance of Edna for the King of Drill. There’s a reason why he is the only artist that has made it into every entry of my column thus far. Last month he dropped what is probably the most commercial song on the album with the Stormzy and AJ Tracey-assisted, ‘Ain’t It Different’, while before that came the ‘Only You Freestyle’ with Canadian superstar Drake.

Both songs make the album, but they do not come close to highlighting the scope and depth of the project. Headie One is at the top of his game on an album which is surely going to go down as a classic - at least within his own catalogue. It doesn’t matter if you joined Headie One’s journey from Headz Or Tailz or GANG, his debut studio effort provides something that every drill and rap fan can salute. It also comes with many moments of introspection scattered between his unique punchlines, flows and storytelling ability. Not to mention the fact that he holds his own with established features such as Skepta, Mahalia and Future (who even jumps on a drill flow). The North London rapper effortlessly expands his sounds, showcasing his diversity throughout the 20-track experience. An honourable mention has to go out for ‘Princess Cuts’ too.

It’s first week entry at the summit of the UK albums chart also goes to only further proves his ever-growing star power, while the album itself cements Headie’s place in UK rap history.

Dizzee Rascal - E3 AF

It would be fair to say that Dizzee Rascal is experiencing something of a renaissance as he releases his seventh studio album, E3 AF. It marks his first album in a decade that has been completely written, recorded and produced in the UK. His achievements this year thus far have already been touched on in the column’s introduction, but this album serves as a reminder as to why he is a deserving recipient of said awards after two decades at the highest level in music.

E3 AF has everything you could want from a Raskit album, capturing the best parts of his career in a fresh and creative way alongside features from the heavyweights of the grime scene including P Money, Ghetts, Kano and Chip as well as spots from the disbanding Smoke Boyz and a highlight track with Alicai Harley. From garage and grime to drill and the sounds of Ibiza, Dizzee covers it all in what is likely to go down as one of his best bodies of work since his seminal classic Boy In Da Corner.
It’s not on that level by any means but it does capture his renewed hunger and effervescent energy towards the creation of his music, while sowing the seeds of what we can expect from the East London legend moving forward as he delves deeper into his production bag.

Ghetts ft Skepta - ‘IC3’

It’s been a long time coming for grime fans but finally we have a collaboration between two G.O.A.T’s in Ghetts and Skepta with ‘IC3’. The track gets its name from the police code describing black males and follows the lead of Ghetts’ Ivor Novello-nominated single ‘Black Rose’, seeing him touch on social issues within the black community.

“Don’t tell me to go back where I came from while the Queen sits there in stolen jewels” is just one of the bars he spits over hypnotic and ominous production, courtesy of Ten Billion Dreams. Skepta meanwhile talks about rejecting his MBE and instead getting his Chieftaincy in his motherland of Nigeria. Through their bars the pair make a pointed statement and challenge the racist undertones of the code given to us by the people that are meant to protect us.

Visually, the song takes its cues from the previous single ‘Mozambique’ featuring Jaykae and Moonchild Sanelly, through the Ruff Mercy-handled animations dispersed throughout the video. The wider concept of the upcoming project is slowly being revealed through each new release and while we don’t have a release date or project name at the moment, it is shaping up to potentially be Ghetts’ most potent work to date.

Digga D - ‘Chingy (It’s Whatever)’

When it comes to UK drill, this month’s spotlight has deservedly gone to Headie One for his stellar debut album. This may in fact be a controversial opinion but the drill artist I’m personally most excited about is actually Digga D. After being recalled on multiple occasions by the police, he’s back once more this time with ‘Chingy (It’s Whatever)’.

The feds keep trying to stop him from flourishing, but you can’t stop a star from shining and star quality is something the West Londoner has in abundance. In a genre that is notorious for its bleak lyrics and gritty sound, Digga D brings a fun energy and mainstream appeal that is not found amongst his peers (even if his lyrics are just as violent). He even pays homage to Chingy the artist by including references to the legendary track ‘Right Thurr’ from 2003.

UK drill undeniably has more of an influence on the US than the other way around but in regards to Digga D, the American influences are clear for all to see. His last video featured low riders and crip references while his latest offering includes more of the same with new era caps and basketball jerseys. But the UK is still representing in full force through cameos from The Class of 98’s, which is fitting seeing as fellow drill star Unknown T was his cellmate at one point, something he also touches on in the track.

Potter Payper - ‘When I Was Little’

Last month saw Potter Payper’s trilogy completing Training Day 3 mixtape debut at number 3 in the UK Albums chart, marking the return of real road rap and setting the Barking-based rapper on a whole new career trajectory, having been released from prison only a few months prior.

The achievement was bittersweet for the rapper as he lost his grandmother during promotion for the project, which has only further motivated him to never go back to the life that made him who he is today, but to instead put those stories and lessons into his music. Fitting then that the latest video for the tape is ‘When I Was Little’, in which he takes a trip down memory lane and reminisces on his journey to this point.

Just like the rest of the mixtape the track is filled with raw lyricism and insight into his past, expertly brought to life with the video. It’s a testament to Potter Payper and the strength of the project that even though it came out last month, it had to be featured in some form or another for this months column as it is without a doubt one of the highlight drops of the year.

Fredo - ‘What Can I Say’

Fredo released ‘Hickory Dickory Dock’ towards the end of lockdown leaving fans scratching their heads as to what kind of music we were going to get from his upcoming second album. It seemed a far cry from the days of ‘They Ain’t 100’ and even the sounds of his debut like ‘Survival Of The Fittest’.

It was later revealed that he didn’t even like the song and after taking a break from social media he returned in triumphant fashion with his ‘Daily Duppy’, in which he laid down rhymes about his younger days pre-fame in the hood, with wordplay and flows showcasing a Fredo at the top of his game. The freestyle tapped into his innermost thoughts and was reflective and introspective as much as it was confident and flashy, making it a statement that made many fans cite the return of the early days of the rapper's career.

This energy continued into his next release, ‘What Can I Say’, which is rumoured to be the first single from his as-yet-untitled second album. Produced by Da Beatfreakz, the song sees the West Londoner rap from the heart about lost loved ones: whether they be in prison or no longer with us. Sonically it is a change of pace from what we’re used to hearing from him but bars-wise his pen is as sharp as ever and suggests that this album could turn out to be something very special.

Frisco - The Familiar Stranger

BBK are like a team full of ballers. If you take Liverpool for example, Skepta and JME could be loosely compared to Salah and Mane, while Frisco is like the Firmino of the crew. He does not get the plaudits his work deserves but the team would not function in the same way or be as successful as they are without him. In other words, he is the unsung hero and his latest album is yet another example of just how cold he is not just as an MC but an artist in general. Him and Louis Rei of WSTRN remind me of each other in that they both seem to be tuned into their own frequency, in their own lane and on their own time. Frisco doesn’t need you to tell him he’s cold because he knows it himself and that’s the only person he needs validation from.

Production is handled by names like Splurgeboys, Sir Spyro and TSB, and features are as varied as Skengdo, Devlin and Novelist. Across 15 tracks, Frisco shows his lyrical flexibility over punchy, atmospheric beats with his unique range of flows and unique delivery coming to the fore. It may not necessarily be an album that gets the shine it deserves but when it’s all said and done it serves as another solid outing for the criminally underrated North Londoner.

Tion Wayne ft Mist - ‘Deluded’

My hype for this song originally came through the return of Mist. The Birmingham rapper has not released music since last year and such was his excitement for this song, I thought that it was Tion Wayne who was feature. Nevertheless, when the track dropped I was intrigued to see what Mist would do on a drill beat and once more his versatility shone through.

Over a beat produced by his good friend and collaborator, Steel Banglez (along with Chris Rich), Mist and Tion Wayne go back to back with bars filled with personality and aggression.

Accompanying the song is a cinematic visual that compliments the rest of Tion’s drops this year. The title and hook may be a subtle nod to the drama in his personal life with Lani Good, but musically he has been at the top of his game working with the best in the business since his label switch.

With the amount of music he’s put out, along with the status of the features, Tion Wayne is almost certain to capitalise on it with a full length project sooner rather than later. It’s been a while since he’s put out music on his own and it remains to be seen if his transition into drill can be maintained without the help of other artists. We’ll have to wait and see what comes next from the North Londoner.

SL - Different Dude

I’ve criticised SL in the past for delivering surface level bars in his projects, but credit where it is due as on Different Dude the young rapper floats across beats effortlessly, letting off his thoughts like a stream of consciousness. The 10-track effort sees him reveal conversations with his mum and his boys, giving us as the audience a closer insight into his mindset and where his priorities lie. With high calibre features such as Nafe Smallz, Ayo Britain and Unknown T also in the mix, SL manages to hold his own and prove once more why he’s so highly rated as one of the youngest in charge.