Black's back with another EP exploring his sense of place and purpose as a Black artist/creative in modern Britain.
At the end of ‘LOOP’, the lead single off Theodor Black’s latest EP, a voice can be heard saying: ‘all this effort of life, everything that you do, everything was in pursuit of happiness. But are we any happier?’ It’s a telling sample that personifies much of the subject matter of Black’s back-catalog. The idiosyncratic, lo-fi tendencies of ‘Black Boy Blues’, the rapper/artist’s first project, illuminated vignettes of growing up in Britain as a young, Black man and the sense of despondence that comes with this. ‘LOOP’ questions this theme further as the South Londoner switches flow dexterously over a nauseating trap beat.
On PARADISE FM, sonically, Black progresses his woozy production beyond the realms of UK rap, nodding to broken beat (PARADISE FM) and house (FLOWER) with equal assuredness. This works in tandem with the nostalgic tones offered by him and his collaborators, whose occasionally dissonant deliveries create an enchanting dreaminess. This is best captured by 'FLOWER', which enlists Lucy Tun’s Tirzah-esque croons for a melancholy feature. The emphasis on female features not only makes the EP feel more expansive but also allows Black to give a voice to the individual he describes fondly in songs like 'CAPRICORN'.
EP opener 'TOP DOWN' breaks Black’s conventional “Black boy blues” territory, dramatizing a bravado his discography has seen little of. The lyricism is still laced with references to his smoking habits and promiscuity, but confidence is expressed in the allusions to his style. Black weaves his slurry verses between frantic vocal overlays and spacey 808s, switching beats and flows interchangeably with ease.
Although PARADISE FM portrays this confidence, the EP’s title track sees him still searching for purpose. BaggE’s dulcet tones demystify the textured broken beats, which persistently break the seal of a resonant melody. The more vulnerable stance adopted speaks to his inner conflicts and exposes Theodor Black’s profound character. Yes, there are hints of bravado but PARADISE FM displays the marks of an artist still finding out who they really are.
Nevertheless, the record sees Black become more accustomed to the genre-less artist he wishes to become. The inflections of UK club culture that run throughout accommodate his subject matters as much as the hip-hop. His capacity to not only try something new but be successful is admirable and bodes well for future releases.
Written by Liam Cattermole