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Tion Wayne
Green With Envy Denzil Bell , September 24th, 2021 09:47

The debut album from Tion Wayne balances a finely-tuned pop sensibility and hardcore street anthems with ease, finds Denzil Bell

Green With Envy is an appropriate choice of title for Edmonton Green native Tion Wayne's debut album. After all, he must have left the rest of the UK drill scene feeling somewhat jealous when he became the first artist from the genre to get a UK Number One single with the absolute thumper of a track 'Body', in March 2021. Such a reaction would be misplaced, though. Tion didn't reach the top through pure good luck: years of hard work went into it, too. He released his first track, 'Edmonton', on YouTube as a 17-year-old in 2010, and his journey since has involved many ups and downs on the way to pop's summit. The highs have included the much-loved Wayne's World mixtape trilogy; the lows, infamously, a series of stints in prison. But after each setback, he has always rebounded with some incredible music.

The darker side of Tion peaks on Green With Envy's more overtly drill tracks, such as posse cut 'Anything Grr', where his 3x3 crew showcase that they are nothing to play with. "Paranoid all my life, no slippin', what can I say? I got too much victims," he spits, with the war-like track putting the listener in the sonic zone of being in a city under siege. It is unfortunate that the perceived realness of violence in UK drill is beloved by many of its fans, and Tion does embody this in many of his rap tracks – perhaps giving us a clue as to why he has become so popular. But, at the same time, his projects of late always come with a fair share of his trademark Afro-leaning pop numbers. Here, they offer a welcome break from the record's harsher cuts. 'Who's True', which features Nigerian superstar Davido, exemplifies this, seeing Tion tapping into his own Nigerian roots.

As the record near its conclusion, Tion goes deep into emotional territory. On 'Homecoming', he raps about his mother having cancer and beating it, and ends on a prayer. On outro track 'Road To Riches', he raps: "I thank God the fact I'm alive," casting back to when he was stabbed in the back as a teen. Tion might be shining like a diamond star on a platinum chain these days, but lines like these are subtle reminders that what he's been through hasn't always been glitter and gold.