Stevie G: An artist to behold

Hip-hop is in rude health and the rude boys and girls have more options than ever when it comes to fresh new music, so says Stevie G in his weekly column
Stevie G: An artist to behold

Tyler The Creator: This album is his most introspective and thoughtful set of tunes yet, and musically it’s a joyful affair.

THIS time last year there were high profile hip-hop releases from Kanye West, Pusha T and Drake, and some rap rivalries and beefs that had the whole world talking.
Twelve months on and things are a lot more calm, and even Kanye himself seems to be in a much happier place, as his Sunday Services continue to be some of music’s highlights of the year.

There is nothing as controversial right now, but don’t let that put you off, hip-hop is in rude health and the rude boys and girls have more options than ever when it comes to fresh new music.

First up let’s talk about Tyler the Creator. One of the year’s most anticipated releases, “Igor” recently reached number one in the US, and it’s chart numbers are being matched by almost unanimously positive reviews.

Tyler’s growth as an artist has been a joy to behold, and his new found maturity over the last few albums may have led to a less aggressive outlook, but the music is as infectious as ever.

This album is probably as good as “Flower boy”, his previous record, which is a bona-fide classic in my book.

Tyler has always laid his soul bare, but this is his most introspective and thoughtful set of tunes yet, and musically it’s a joyful affair. It’s not the most conventional structurally, but as his pal Frank Ocean proved with “Blonde”, these days the rule book is gone forever.

Tyler the Creator has hit his stride and produced one of the albums of the year.

Denzel Curry has already been pretty prolific and and it’s hard to believe he’s only just turned 24. A string of well received releases and some incendiary live shows have led a burgeoning reputation, all before his latest album ZUU was released last Friday.

He’s already played Dublin last December and he has since been booked for a return later in the year, as well as Longitude next month. This album is an assured record dominated by huge 808’s and and a southern swagger that reminds me of early NWA and 2 Live Crew. Denzel is in fine form and hooky tunes that bump hard are the order of the day. This album is full of absolute bangers and is another huge summer release for hip-hop.

The third artist I looked at this week was another who I saw at Longitude a few years ago and just last week he played a blinder at Forbidden Fruit. Skepta has come a long way from his early days with grime collective Meridan Crew (and a short stint with Roll Deep) to the release of Ignorance is Bliss last Friday. Alongside his brother JME, he is a founding member of Boy Better Know, but his music these days is a big departure from the more commercial sound that dominated many of his earlier singles. Grime and garage and house are always related anyway, but the musical climate in 2019 is a lot friendlier for grime and hip-hop and for a few albums now he has been releasing far more uncompromising music.

This is probably Skepta’s best album yet, and the frequent collaborator again features guests, such as his regular sparring partner Wizkid, the Nigerian afrobeats star who always works well with him.

Overall though, it’s all about Skepta and some of the most memorable bars of 2019. On his day he is one of the greatest MC’s on the planet and this album is a classic. It’s not only been a long road for Skepta, but UK hip-hop as a whole is better than ever in 2019.

Growing up in the 90s I used read about groups such as Hijack, Caveman, London Posse and Gunshot, in UK rap bible “Hip-hop connection”. The journalists pushed the music hard, but they were very different times, and it was very frustrating for British artists striving to make a breakthrough. Eventually Roots Manuva and Dizzee Rascal plus a few more broke through, but even at the start of Skepta’s career there was an inferiority complex regarding rap in the UK.

It was the same in Ireland in some ways. Crucially, it usually wasn’t the artists but more the music industry in general who took hip-hop from across the Atlantic more seriously. It’s all changed now, and Skepta is one of many artists from the UK showing us that geography doesn’t matter as much anymore. This is a great album!

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