Native Londoner Loyle Carner
is barely known outside the English-speaking world even though «Not Waving, but Drowning»
was released by the same label, Virgin EMI Records
, as Rihanna. His first LP «Yesterday's Gone»
(2017) was critically acclaimed. Also, the album was nominated alongside alt-J
and The xx
for one of the most prestigious British awards. Loyle is not new to the mainstream. Rapping about his life and personal concerns deviates from the typical artificial character of the gangster rapper and drug dealer.
Amongst modern rappers (especially popular ones), it is extremely difficult to find — if not the poet, at least someone honest. As opposed to endless «cars, chicks, cocaine» and unnatural sufferings from ruminations of personal feelings. However, there are reasons for this. It was assumed that hip-hop performers who have feelings and thoughts could be sold if they fit into these rap formulas. One of the examples is Lil Skies
: «She left. I'm empty inside so I smoke a lot of weed. Yes, I'm the rapper» or a conglomeration of exaggerated sad characters which work only in combination with the beat, autotune or character of a person who passed away such as Lil Peep
. Loyle Carner
is a notable break in the industry, avoiding such formulas.
His album begins with a poem addressed to his mother, with a minimalistic beat. It means that people inside the industry likely think that the pendulum has swung and such things can be sold.
Not so long ago, the thing to be sold by a successful performer was a lifestyle in which freedom and independence came first. All of the attributes of such a character: drugs, confederates, guns, and chicks, were one grotesque way to describe the degree in which the performer's character cont`rasts with the environment or fits in with it. Loyle
offers us poetic, confessional hip-hop. His flow is monotone, honed. Sometimes it's sharp but calm, honest — which connects it to the rap of the 80s and 90s. What comes to mind is Erik B & Rakim
— the same monotone style and profound eloquence. The other famous alternative is MF DOOM
). However, he reminds the listeners of all of these performers due to his delivery and the ability to put the words together. His delivery is much calmer. Sometimes, you can even forget that it's rap. The album contains touching tracks such as «Desoleil (Brilliant Corners)» which was produced with the soul musician Sampha
, who won the Mercury Prize in 2017.
Needless to say, the main goal of the hip-hop performer is «changing the game», which means bringing something into the genre, something that can change it forever, to become a part of this genre which you love, in order to bring a small part of your personality to the table. It's hard to say if the young British performer has managed it or if he will be able to do it in the future. Even though we can point out the fact of an attempt here, it speaks a lot by itself.
However, his first release was a little bit closer to the boom-bap of the 90s with its straight and clear instrumental part. The album included more rhythmical rap tracks that we got used to liking «Ain't Nothing Changed» which was produced by Rebel Kleff
. On this album, there is just one track featuring him, «You don't know», which is far more soul-like and not as impulsive.
Be that as it may, for a jazz fan, it won't be easy to get over the association with background jazz or «an elevator or lounge». It can be boring despite the variety of different samples, beats and structure, and a perfect work of talented producers: Jordan Rakei and Tom Misch (both are famous for jazz and soul releases respectively).
Sure, it's not Madlib
with his masterpiece compilation of jazz remixes «Shades of Blue»
(2003). By the way, Madlib
's album has a lot in common with «Not Waving, but Drowning»
even the motive with a call recording and conversation with friends that begins and closes Loyle's tracks.
There's not enough angriness and experimentation. After all even «Angel» and «Looking Back» could only win if they used a brighter delivery. I'm sure that such a talented musician could be much more interesting if he could find a way to express himself. This lounge-style makes you bored. You stop listening to his speech which is the main thing that is worth listening to on this album. Anton Valsky
translated by Nick Brandin edited by Eleonora Kap