Genre defying art collective NiNE8 up the tempo on their second ‘No Smoke’ mixtape.
A product of London’s cultural cross pollination, NiNE8’s music has always looked to challenge institution and encourage social progression. Their nationalities bridge over Caribbean, Irish, Somalian, Indian and English heritage which, even for the capital, is such a diverse range of background. Lead by Lava La Rue, who co-formed the group back in 2014, NiNE8 have a 9-deep roster of wordsmiths, beat makers and artists. L!BAAN, NAYANAIZ, BIIG PIIG, LORENZORSV, LAVA LA RUE, BONE SLIM, MAC WETHA, NIGE AND KXRN all spice up the concoction of sonics on this tape with their multifaceted talent, and the outcome is a lively affair.
Recorded over two weeks in Kentish Town’s Map Studio Café, No Smoke Vol2 channels the artist’s pent up, post lockdown energy into 9 tracks. WARRIORS (INTRO) lures us in with Mac Wetha and (Sad Boys founder) Kojaque’s misty production. Biig Piig’s verse is equally chilling, whilst Bone Slim bodies a multi-flowed opening 16. Within the first three tracks we have elements of R&B, lo-fi hiphop, indie and trap - the sheer disparity in genre on NSV2 preaches the collective’s willingness to break boundaries. The energy is soon upped by KXRN’s production. ‘4REAL’ is a visceral cut, with its trap tendencies bringing out authoritative verses from Slim and LorenzorSV.
By ‘FUNKTION’ you get the feeling there isn’t anything NiNE8 couldn’t do. Embodying the abrasive energy of U.K. drill, the track sees Piig rapping in Spanish, La Rue dabbling in a staccato flow and Nige expressing his deep fondness of Guinness and Cognac. Each member attacks Wetha’s beat with a fearless lyrical energy comparable to grime pirate radio sets. Live, this would go off.
Due to the volume of contributors, and the nature of our capital, the project feels claustrophobic at times. This is by no means a critique of NSV2, if anything it makes the tape feel authentic to the stuffy, and no doubt smoky, studio setting NiNE8 found themselves recoding in. You can imagine Lava La Rue and co all crammed into the congested four walls: writing, drinking, bunning and bouncing ideas off one another whilst Wetha and Kxrn cook up a beat at the front desk.
‘LET IT BREATHE’ is another highlight on the mixtape. L!BAAN kills his hook, whilst Wetha switches the beat immaculately halfway through to accommodate Nayana’s breezy delivery. Lyrically, 079EIGHT is one of the project’s best cuts. The intricate wordplay feels all too relevant to our current times, and the reliance we have on smart phones to fill the void of normality Corona has created. Lava La Rue provides the track’s hardest bar, comparing the infamous blackberry curve to a women’s physique: “She got blackberry curves, after me you can never really upgrade”.
Nige, Lorenzorsv and L!baan play us out with DO OR DIE. Mac again supplies a bouncy trap beat for the lyricists to vibe on and they do so contagiously. If the 2020s is to dawn a new age for British music, it feels like NiNE8 will play a big part in reshaping our countries’ musical landscape. Their DIY-or-die philosophy shows no signs of slowing down on NO SMOKE VOL. 2, which you can stream below.
WRITTEN BY LIAM CATTERMOLE