Photo via BXKS/Instagram
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Renz – “FAQs”
The Lambeth-raised MobSet mafioso has all the merits of a classic bread-and-butter grime MC, coming from the same new generational cloth as Squintz, Novelist, and SBK (the latter also producing the head-bopping beat for FAQ’s). Renz has more of the petty bullishness, you know, the kind of pettiness needed in grime that’d make Wiley do a set on Christmas Day to send an assault of Suck-Your-Mums towards the grime community.
His debut tape, WhoopDiDiDooTape is his grand offering of blood, sweat, tears, bars and pars – you see the bullish cheekiness pop up – especially in the way he brags about sneaking in two Magnums in “FAQ’s”. (idk about you man but I personally prefer the bagginess of Carhartt work pants.)
On top of The Legend of Zelda-like flutes and bass-heavy synths, Renz dodges the questions in FAQ’s like a disgruntled NBA player in a post-game interview – including organizational matters in MobSet (“Don’t watch it’s more than a crew”) and the meaning of WhoopDiDiDoo (“What’s the meaning of WhoopDiDiDoo? WhoopDiDiDoo”) He’s tired of all the pavala that comes with being a creative in London and would rather let his art do the talking.
But speaking of questions, the dialogue around grime – Is it dying? Is it whitewashed/gentrified like Turtle Bay? Is even grime the representative sound of Gen Z’ – is more than jaded but will always be bait for a quick online rant. Artists like Renz provide a hefty dissent to the nihilists. If he can hold his own in radio sessions, fully rep independent and earn his stripes, he can also take an interlude to send wannabe badman grime MC’s to “Dinner, Bath, Bed” like a frustrated uncle babysitting one of his off-the-wall nephews. Just like the aforementioned artists, Renz adds a preternatural vitality to a genre haters choose to ignore. He’s promising to be as classic as Avirex and Channel U, and as modern as Corteiz and Verzuz clashes. Renz isn’t the one for answering questions but when he’s on the mic, the answer is as blatant as Renz’s scowl on his face.
Len – “BRAND NEW BIH”
RYOKO VIRGIL – “FUCKBOI LULLABY”
I heard these guys live on Friday the 13th in a nightclub hidden in the heart of Brick Lane, London. I add some emphasis on the date because it’s a premonition for bad luck. You break a mirror and now you’re leading a life filled with black crows surrounding you, visiting your mum in the hospital because you stepped on a crack, accepting ghosted DM’s and collecting more L’s than Scott Pilgrim did.
But we need the Yin to the Yang, otherwise how could you ever appreciate the true feeling of dubs? That night I caught some L’s, I will not disclose further because we always move silent like the G’s in lasagnas (s/o Lil Wayne) but it was also an alcohol-fuelled night of ballied up mandem rapping, Nintendo 64 projections on a black wall, and Len seeing perform for the first time, in which he performed “BRAND NEW BIH”.
“BRAND NEW BIH” is a rewarding venture from the OG Soundcloud days of “OnThemXans” from the sedated flows over Pierre Bourne-type beats into an intergalactic utopian subspace filled with designer clothes, leng ones, sex, holidays overseas, and packs of the highest grade. There’s a daredevil energy to Len’s delivery on top of Kamil Ademola’s looping beat; its hypnotic sampled vocals carry the beat as Len’s voice crescendos, his voice morphing into Albert Ayler’s trumpet ripping into a high note as he rhymes “Bought my bitch some brand new shoes” with “bought her a Prada bag with some Jimmy Choo.”
On Len’s Instagram, he writes about his latest EP: “life is a loop, life is a dead end. you can’t escape the pain or the loss, but you also can’t run out of good days or love <3”. It’s similar to the same fatalistic apprehension Lil Uzi Vert would convey in the love songs of Eternal Atake; he knows heartbreak is inevitable, but it’s hard to wipe away the tears with those diamond-encrusted rings on your hands.
Len doesn’t think about too much of the shortcomings in “BRAND NEW BIH”, there’s realisations of Len knowing he’s “been the man since seven or eight” and that he’s cracked the code for securing leng ones, (just be yourself honesty), nope, offer them something many can’t afford; vacations to Ibiza, more LV for your closet, a man whose music you don’t have to lie about being good, and fit recommendations from the dripped-out superstar himself. At the end of the song, you’re left with the question: why move like Scott Pilgrim when you can be a Chip Skylark?
Which brings me to Ryoko Virgil fka Virgil Hawkins’ performance. There’s a super power in reinventing yourself in a post-modern digital era where memes don’t need to make sense to be funny or succinct; concepts are re-appropriated until you find another benign source of life in them. In a regurgitated age of the Roaring Twenties, we’re enjoying the hedonism recording the madness and chaos through our iPhones XR’s in a silver tin-foil bubble destined to pop by the hands of mega-corporations, oligarchs, Prime Ministers and – shit – even Jamie Oliver’s dangerously overzealous ambitions in adding a sugar tax on fizzy drinks. This country already removed my right to travel and work in 27 neighbouring countries, in tandem to increasing inflation rates, haven’t we suffered enough?
What is truly “original” or isn’t derived from decades-long cultural movements and what is promised from never expanding from those roots anyway? The relevant grime heads are moving on with the times and trends while time is running out for those reminiscing the halcyon days. Negropop, which came from the ashes of Grime 2.0 and rose into the untapped space of alt-Grime and encompassing genres of the 2010s like trap, soundcloud rap, bass music, and hyperpop. A complete switch-up in aesthetic and philosophical leanings, if Negropop is a new cultural movement for Gen Z British alt-rap artists and producers, then “FUCKBOI Anthem”, well, an apt anthem for the mandem (hold tight girls, I got something for you in the next song selection).
On top of HNRO’s dizzying beat with hard-hitting 4-beat 808s and synths that sounds like it was ripped from Metal Gear Solid, it’s a hectic snowballing of experimentation within song structure, atmosphere and production. SHIVVY AND JYNN’s brotherly-like chemistry leaves an impression as SHIVVY picks up the song with a street-wise laidback flow, asking for a “bad one like Kim K” before alley-oop’ing the ball to JYNN’s quick-fire 8-bar verse.
The song takes us a bridge scattered with bird-like ad-libs before leading us to Ryoko’s autotuned excursion where he baptises his verse in autotune and vocal modulations with a lightning-speed flow faster than Zeus’s hands; He screams like a neon-lighted hawk soaring through the star-peppered night in his ad-libs, he gets fucked up in the stu, and later he rues the days he felt human, embracing his psychological switch like a Paul Bateman unleashing his social inhibitions.
Ryoko Virgil sounds like he was manifested upon a steady understanding of what makes Lancey Foux and Bladee so alien while morphing into a character study of Bora Akinciturk and Iain Ball’s frank, individualistic and debauched examination of Gen Z and social media culture. The cherry-on-top during the FUCKBOI Anthem, the song genuinely sounds like something you’ll put in a rocket and send off into galaxies, in the hopes, something out there will understand, and try to Shazam it.
BXKS – “Collateral Damage”
After dropping her EP, Daydreaming and collaborating with the likes of Joe James, and KISH, collecting MVP on whatever song her verse is blessed upon, BXKS always leaves us waiting for more.
The Luton-based rapper packs a punch with her latest single “Collateral Damage.” Over SusTrapperazzi’s smooth saxophone loop and the drill-influenced 808s and hi-hits patterns that’ll turn any quiet motive into a shrubz, BXKS self-prophesies when she promises us “It’s the 140 BPM murderer, BXKS, I know you ain’t heard of her / She’s a superstar on the verge ya know.” Only to find herself performing at Glastonbury a month later. In “Collateral Damage”, she continues to dodge the snakes, climb the ladders in this increasingly challenging game-board of life, where a lifestyle of risky choices or a sole decision made in poor judgement can lead to a Game Over with no more quarters left.
El Busy – “007”
I discovered this song on my Instagram one day, it was a sponsored post, and, yes the beat sounds like something plucked out of The Legend of Zelda’s Gerudo Valley.
“007” contains most of the qualities in which an UK drill song may end up on your TikTok #fyp. It’s “drill-y” but not isn’t like harsh old-school UK drill tunes like Young Dizz’s fire-and-brimstone rampages or Abzsav’s controversial “Tables Turn” series. On the flip-side, it’s not conceived from the hands of record label exes or A&R’s waterboarding its roster for a viral hit – but ask yourself – can your knee joints firm enough sturdy dances for the TikToks?
It all boils down to the smooth rap-talking flow the Croydon rapper dons, El Busy pushes away that 9-to-5 lifestyle for one sedimentary life in trap houses in small villages and postcode wars (some say they only trekked as far as Shirley Oaks for the music video) and going into the booth to tell it all with an coolheaded remove.