Bakar - Badkid
If there is one artist who has made waves this year, It is Bakar. Blending vivacious punk with a quintessentially British Indie, the multi-talented man has set London alight, and taken cities by storm on his first headline tour. At the centre of his successes though, is his debut Mixtape/LP ‘Badkid’ - a nod to all walks of youthful subcultures and the emotions that go with them. From heartbreak to hysteria, this record really expresses the DIY prowess many artist’s wish they still had. Obviously tunes like ‘Big Dreams’, two minutes of crashing drums and guitars that sail below Bakar’s catchy chorus, stand out as singles, but it is the deeper cuts that make this record so special. ‘Handful’ is easily one of my songs of the year, comparing ‘Good Pussy’ to ‘Kryptonite’ and narrating a story of his relationship with a woman who is unashamedly a party animal. Why this album is so underrated I don’t know, I really thought it would propel him into a more acclaimed crowd, but truthfully I don’t think Bakar cares. He has made the best indie record of the year, no one can take that away from him.
Mick Jenkins - Pieces of a Man
Conscious rappers can often deliver drab albums, where too much emphasis is placed on their lyricism, leaving the instrumentation feeling stale or overworked. This record however, resonates all the jazz elements of Jenkins’ ‘the Water’, but modernises them through the untouchable production of BADBADNOTGOOD, KAYTRANADA and Black Milk. To have this trio of beat makers on your LP is every rapper’s dream, and Jenkins doesn’t fail to utilise the individualities that have made them so successful. ‘Padded Locks’ flips the progressions of BBNG & KAYTRANADA’S hit ‘Lavender’, chopping the melodies into samples that swim beneath the Big Boi-esque flow Mick adopts. Ghost Face Killah adds a restless verse, jittering between political call outs, saying Donald Trump is a ‘piece of shit’, and addressing his rather incredible career.
Virgil Hawkins - Milly Rocking to the Wrong things
This album laments tails of love and finessing over others in a way that is so engaging and surprisingly modest. Hawkins hails from France but grew up in England, a dream pairing of countries that offer a diverse combination of sounds. In similar circumstances to Octavian, the artist uses both his French heritage and English upbringing to his advantage on his debut LP. The album starts off mysterious and lo-fi- giving us an atmospheric introduction to the narrative. It is an LP that shares the intensity of American trap stars like Famous Dex, but the introspective nature of a lot of trip hop too. Album closer ‘Demons’ is an instant classic, manipulating a trippy trap beat to compliment his lyricism, which covers topics of mental health and love. ‘Tatiana’ shares a similar vibe, and is a bop. Definitely an album you need to get on before the end of the year.
AMMI BOYZ - AB OR AMMI BOYZ
It is difficult to stand out from the UK rap scene as a collective, especially with London cradling talent like House of Pharaohs and Smoke Boyz, and Birmingham producing Blue Room Mafia. Stylistically and sonically, Ammi Boyz are completely different to those I just mentioned, championing a rare outlook on the scene, which stems from the member’s unique side projects. AB or Ammi Boyz utilises the fiery production of member ‘Omari Lyseight’, and the introspective outlooks on South London that the likes of P From Lee and Cursa Pyke spit. Although this project is actually an EP, not a record, it’s one we couldn’t help but include. ‘D.O.T.S’ is one of the most riot inducing tunes I have ever heard, but tunes like ‘Zibadee’ steal the show with the slightly more elaborate instrumentation. Try and find a bad song on this EP, It’s difficult.
Suspect - Still Loading
Much like his name, Suspect has succeeded in provoking an original sound, whilst staying slightly enigmatic and ghostly. Drifting in and out of the scene with his screechy, staccato flow, the friend of Giggs and Skepta has been tipped by many as the next to break from the shackles of the U.K. ‘Still Loading’ is 36 minutes of personal audit and reflection, ‘Say it with your chest’ in particular shows the visceral passion of the rapper, who addresses people talking behind his back, unwilling to stand up for themselves. Suspect’s personality is quite the opposite in this respect, as outspoken as he is talented. The features bring a lot to the LP, Jessie James Solomon and Cadel bring contrasting energies and make the listening experience far more elusive than your average rap record.
JJ - Strata
From the tantalisingly twangy heart progressions in ‘Under the sun’, to the hauntingly beautiful feature from ‘ELIZA’, JJ’s ‘Strata’ is a gem amidst the overly worked sounds coming out of the U.K. Since his feature on Rejjie Snow’s ‘Rejovich’ EP, I have been craving more releases from Jesse James, and 2018 really proved to be his year. This EP is astounding, embracing the lo-fi, vintage vibes the world has come to love him for. ‘Goat Talk’ is another one that blows me away, gesturing a sample of Suspect and a glitchy beat, that stays swarve and stylistic despite its slightly trappy nature.
JD. Reid -Tree
Super producer JD. Reid has expressed such versatility in his work, comprising lucid mixes of genres and taking vocalists from far and near out of their comfort zones. ‘Tree’ is the artist’s latest project, which features the likes of Slowthai, 8081NK, Katy B and Reeko Squeeze - quite a collection of personalities who all bring their own perspective to the album. In all honesty, there is not one weak feature on the album, the Beat Smith managed to get the best out of them by stylistically tampering with their unique sounds. ‘Piggy Bank’ is an obvious highlight, where Slowthai spits menacingly about people changing themselves to fit their surroundings, whilst he chooses to be himself. ‘Call Your Bluff’ is a surprisingly trancy, mellow tune amidst the intensity of tracks like ‘Us’ and ‘Different’. He is known for his production of grime, but this is definitely a stand out moment for me, proving his versatility.