Son Raw
doesn’t pose for no one. Maybe Brent Rollins.

There’s no politically correct way of saying that James Blake’s music is infinitely better when he works with black voices so fuck political correctness. While a few twee outlets went nuts over his LP last year, almost everyone previously familiar with his work found it to be hobbled by half-baked songwriting and overly prissy vocals, and his subsequent return to pure beats on tracks like Curbside felt like a much-needed course-correction. This Harmonimix of Roll Deep legend and all-around Grime iconoclast Trim predates that single, but it’s an even better example of what happens when Blake’s weirdness and production know-how meets a vocalist and lyricist able to match his ambition.

Looping and twisting Trim’s call to “strike a pose” and zeroing in on lines about foster homes homes and single-parenthood, Blake imbues his singular aesthetic with lyrical and topical weight befitting his edgy, overblown synths and drums. The resulting track is perhaps the most honest music he’s put out yet: this feels like an ideal dialogue between his own art-world aesthetic and the street music he’s drawn inspiration from, compromising neither. As opposed to suburban producers shamelessly jacking trap drum patterns or alternately watering down urban sounds with soupy vocals, this stands out as one of the year’s most striking clash of musical worlds. Now how about a single with Dizzee?