Rap Rundown: More LIfe
In this week’s Rap Rundown, we’ve got the UK being championed once again by Drake on his ‘More Life’ playlist and the latest release from south London rapper, singer and New Gen collaborator Bonkaz.
Ahead of his final London show during his Boy Meets World Tour, Drake’s dominated conversations on UK music once again with the release of his latest album – which he has described as more of a playlist – featuring intercontinental cameos from Giggs, Skepta, Jorja Smith, Sampha and Nana Rogues. Premiered on OVO Sound Radio on Saturday, the 22 track ‘More Life’ project overtly showcases a London influence with its features, production and dialect, again proving the Toronto rapper’s versatility and his infatuation with London culture.
Drake’s relationship with Skepta - which has brought us a series of collaborations, subsequently shining a global light on a microcosm of UK music - is far from a secret. The pair have a clear creative connection, enabling Drake to be educated on what’s happening in the UK and also gaining him access to some of the underground scene’s most popular artists. Judging by the tour, the album campaign and the multiple appearances on the project, that education and access seems to have led to his latest obsession being Giggs. Remember when the Peckham rapper released ‘Talking The Hardest’ and everyone with an ear to the underground went mad for it? I feel like that is what Drake’s been experiencing of late and the results have definitely been welcomed.
More Life’s second track ‘No Long Talk’ is where we see the first collaboration. To the untrained ear, it’ll sound like an innovation and something new from Drake but to anyone who’s familiar with Giggs, the track sounds like it could sit quite comfortably on ‘Walk in Da Park’. The beat sounds like it was made for the SN1 rapper to flow on and for Drake to adapt to, once again proving the record’s unapologetic London influence.
Skepta then arrives on track ten, ‘Skepta Interlude’. When I saw the track list, I assumed it would just be a UK-slang-heavy monologue from the BBK poster boy, used to further prove how cultured Drake is and how he has been embraced by the London scene. But, I was pleasantly surprised when I listened to the track and it wasn’t. It’s a solo track which, again, could have been lifted from one of Skepta’s own projects. Although it’s only 2mins and 24secs, the interlude is ultimately all about Skepta and it feels like, out of respect to him, Drake decided he didn’t even need to lay down a verse and left the Tottenham rapper to fully introduce himself to music fans across the pond.
Five songs later, Giggs appears for a second time on ‘KMT’. This time his presence is made clear, before his verse even arrives, with his infamous adlibs. Again, the track sounds more like a UK rap anthem than the US chart hits we’re used to hearing from Drake, suggesting that the intention was to give listeners an unadulterated, authentic example of UK rap from one of the scene’s pioneers. Check out Drake previewing the project in London below and if you haven’t already, grab your copy of ‘More Life’ here.
Before Drake caused a madness with ‘More Life’, Friday saw Bonkaz drop ‘Quality Control 2.0’ which he described on Instagram ahead of its release as ‘The best music I have ever made’. The project showcases the south London rapper’s distinctive lyricism and word play and combines a US stimulus with an organic UK sound, encompassing the ideologies and influences of the new generation of UK rap.
It begins with an intense introduction, continuing with track two ‘Pressure’ featuring Mark Asari which exhibits the same quality bars as the intro but with a neo-R&B influence. Track three ‘Cash Money’ then introduces the more trappy, Future-style vibe with the feature from s loud, leading into another inspired collaboration on ‘Don’t Forget’ featuring Ghetts and J Warner.
Then comes one of my highlights; ‘My Brudda’ featuring Dotty. If you read last week’s Rap Rundown, you’ll be aware that I’m a fan of Dotty, so this was one of the tracks I was most looking forward to and, although I am familiar with both Bonkaz and Dotty’s talents, the track still wasn’t quite what I expected. Rather than producing a UK rap anthem you’d catch in the clubs (which we all know Bonkaz is capable of), the pair shared an open, honest conversation with each other with some deep verses and melodic hooks. I really like the track, not only because I’m a fan of both artists, but because it again encompasses the supportive nature of UK rap’s new generation.
The project also features appearances from Brandz, Loick Essien and Paige Lihya, regularly switching up the vibe with a variety of experimental tracks but for me, the focus of the project is Bonkaz’s bars. As I mentioned, ‘Quality Control 2.0’ showcases various influences and delves into an assortment of genres but the value of the artist’s bars never diminishes. Whether it’s on the stripped back ‘Intro’ or the slightly pop-style ‘Greenlight’, Bonkaz’s lyrical standard is maintained throughout the record, creating a substantial, landmark body of work, securing his position as a new generation ambassador. Purchase you’re copy of “Quality Control 2.0’ here.
Words: Patrick Fennelly
Online Edit: Ra'ed Khan