Just imagine. One night in 2015, Ragz Originale gets an adrenaline fuelled call from Skepta, who had just been in the studio with Kanye West. Dissatisfied with the time himself and Ye spent in the session, Mr. Adenuga asks Originale over to his; on arrival Skepta nips out to triumphantly mob the Brit Awards with the Louis Vuitton Don, and some of grime’s most celebrated emcees. In the meantime, Ragz gets to work, devising three beats - one of which went on to define grime’s mid-2010s period of renaissance. The evening after, Big Smoke and Ragz crafted a watershed moment in British music; the Drake sampling Shutdown peaked at 39 on the U.K singles chart, won both artists a merited Ivor Novello nomination and provoked a wave of captivating post-grime rap.
Since producing for Skepta, Benny Mails and Oscar #WORLDPEACE, one of the North Londoner’s Mini Kingz affiliates, Ragz Originale has shaped a whole new age of genre blending British music. In 2016, the rapper-producer-singer stepped out from behind the MacBook and in front of the mic, debuting an acclaimed debut album two years later, and a run of lauded singles/eps. Such prolificness garnered radio support from the likes of Benji B and Tiffany Calver, both of whom have whipped up hype for the Tottehman native’s latest project - WOAH.
On this mixtape, the multifaceted artist broadens his sonic repertoire through cosmic afrobeats, woozy synths and relentlessly greazy basslines. Mirrors is an atmospheric opener, enlisiting Ragz’ trademark, sugared vocals and subtle string scores over a rolling rhythm. This pace translates into OG Lullaby, where the wordsmith personifies issues with new found wealth: a whirlpool of dulcet tones and intricate lyricism captivate in a way only he really can. Featuring John Glacier, Nightcap is a personal highlight, as the artists go line-for-line over trippy trap snares and sonorous bass. Ragz switches his flow to one with more vigour and bounce, fashioning a cut too contagious to not reload.
The craftsman's careful selection of features, on WOAH, shows his monarchal status among London’s frivolous underground scene. As well as John Glacier, we have Laura Groves and 24hoursav. His prowess could have warranted collaborations with better known artists, but their tones complement the subtle nuances Ragz looks to achieve on each individual track. Brush U, despite its short length, allures through a West African inspired beat and yet another infectious hook.
Perhaps the tape’s fiercest track, Phone Ring Out’s pulsating, deep bass and off-kiltered drums hark back to the grime ladened production of Ragz’ earlier work. Still, the track fails to be bound by the conventions of contemporary music, epitomising the uncompromising nature of this EP.
WOAH is Ragz Originale’s most fascinating project yet. It's a perfect encapsulation of the artist he has become: whatever else changes, Ragz' sincerity and knack for introspectiveness will always withhold his royal status in U.K. music.