Lyrical Sample // Lyrical Strally

Reviewed: 07/07/2020

Rating: 7.5 // 10

Genres: Grime, UK Hip-Hop, Alt. R&B

Released: 04/07/2020

Lyrical Strally proves that he has the ability to stick it out alone on Lyrical Sample, a freshened version of grime that entertains throughout.

You might have heard of Lyrical Strally before – probably through his involvement in the group YGG, who featured on AJ Tracey‘s breakthrough project and have put out a smattering of singles and projects over the years.

Even within the trio with Saint P and PK, the MC earnt a reputation as a direct, witty rapper.

And all over this mixtape we’re treated to some hard-hitting bars and funny quips.

The opener Hold It Down is a great example of this, serving as a strong introduction to Strally’s sound. There’s these echoing voice effects that compound the angry, aggressive energy. I’m a big fan of the old-school instrumental track, and overall this is a very strong opener.

What They Say features a nice, strong chorus that the song is built around. The percussion of the beat is a lot more prominent on this track, whilst the production is tight.

Minerals Freestyle veers more towards a garage, jungle and rave vibe. It has a fast energy and is over in a flash, with the song pleasantly fading out. I particularly enjoy the adlibs for emphasis all over this, and how the beat quickens up half way through briefly.

The next track, Wilderness features a beat seemingly straight out 90s era Nintendo games, with some interesting horn-esque synths. Whilst slightly repetitive, especially at the start, I do really enjoy the vibe and feeling of this track.

Giving It All That is definitely my favourite track, with Lyrical Strally spitting over a Wiley beat. It’s a very unique instrumental that again seems to draw from computerised sounds, and to me, sounds like a hyperpop sound that would serve the basis of a Charli XCX track.

Again it is rigidly structured, but the way the song builds up around the chorus is fantastic. The switch up after the introduction is class, and refreshes the track.

With this being a mixtape, there is less cohesion and connection between songs. That opens the door for more experimentation, which certainly comes across on Never Know. It definitely belongs closer to R&B driven hip-hop. It is probably the most repetitive song on the tracklist, however it is a decent take of a slower track.

If there’s any place to explore and develop new sounds a mixtape is the perfect place to do so. This trend of slower, more R&B styled tracks, continues til the end of the tape.

Spoon/Alakazam is more on the light hearted side, with some funny and actually quite clever wordplay regarding the ability of the Pokémon Alakazam. However the punchline is repeated numerous times, yet I can’t really be mad at the song.

Halfheart is probably the most laidback and personal track, but it is done very well. I can see why the back end of the track listing features more and more R&B, as Strally shows promise within the sound.

The closing track Sky Is The Limit features that similar personal, chilled vibe and is executed just as well. The rattling snares towards the midpoint of the track are a nice touch.

On balance I feel that Strally shows that he is accomplished and well polished when it comes to spitting over grime beats, but that he also shows talent and potential when leaning towards more mainstream, R&B.

One of my favourite grime and UK hip-hop projects of the year, and well worth a listen.

Track Listing

  • Hold It Down (A-)
  • What They Want (B+)
  • Minerals Freestyle (B+)
  • Wilderness (A-)
  • Giving It All That (A)
  • Never Know (B-)
  • Spoon / Alakazam (B+)
  • Halfheart (B)
  • Sky Is The Limit (B-)

Quarantime: The Lost Files // Yxng Bane

Reviewed: 13/05/2020

Rating: 0.5 // 10

Genres: Afroswing, UK Drill

Released: 01/05/2020, Disturbing London

Yxng Bane is like most of us in the UK – stuck in lockdown with nothing but time on his hands. Able to work from home, the UK Drill and Afroswing artist has produced a rather forgettable mixtape.

Hosted by DJ Charlie Sloth, this mixtape peddles the same beats and rhythms one expect from the fledgling Afroswing genre, producing a sameness to almost every track.

Sloth introduces us to the track with his obnoxious signature echo distortion, and whilst the gimmick is a nice idea, it quickly becomes boring through the initial skit, let alone the other two one the tape.

Yxng Bane is still yet to release a full length LP, but he still pulls in a long list of guest artists to feature across this set of songs.

The opening three are run of the mill Afroswing – Drip From Me is the most generic and offensively bland song on the tape, whilst the track Section had been released a month prior to the album’s conception. It does have an interesting guitar melody, and whilst it is a little bit grimier than most Afroswing, it is still a tame track.

Table For Two continues the tepid beginning to the album, before the first switch up into a more drill based track on Are You Mad.

Featuring K-Trap, we see another return to a guitar led tune which incorporates aspects of drill. K-Trap’s intro carries the song, whilst the autotuned chorus from Bane isn’t awful. That being said, it doesn’t add much either. It almost feels as if this is a K-Trap track that Bane guests on, but it is a brief bright spot.

It’s not surprise it is the only track from this to chart – but only as high as 66th place

Father is a softer drill tune layered with the aforementioned autotune, but finally used in some moderation. Passable, but not really noteworthy beyond the hook.

Charlie Sloth returns again for almost a minute of the unbearable voice distortion. It serves as a tenuous link to the next track, a song with Yxng Bane’s frequent collaborators D-Block Europe.

Labelled Rockstar, it produces the most laughable line of the entire album in the chorus.

Yeah, rockstar life, I’m livin’ life that you could never live (Brrt)
She said “fuck me in the arse, I’m high off ketamine” (Brrt)

D-Block Europe have never been afraid to go for the risqué lyrics – Home Pussy springs to mind, but this is so absurd and quite out of place. And the fact it is repeated numerous times is simply hilarious.

If you take this track as seriously as it takes itself, I.E, not at all, then it is somewhat enjoyable at best, completely passable at worst. The beat is quite catchy, but again it relies on the guest appearance from DBE.

MCM is a song with a decent premise surrounding the concept of being someone’s Man Crush Monday. A big part of the social media landscape, this is an interesting take on it, and the autotune is actually used properly for once. The beat is airy, slow and spaced out. At no point is it unbearable, and is probably the best track on the album.

The final leg of the album is inundated with features, starting on the track Porsche, featuring the recently released from prison Headie One. Considering he was only released at the start of April, he is in prolific form after dropping a mixtape, GANG, and a feature on this. Impressive.

Another largely forgettable track, the flow from both just sounds miserable and disinterested.

Kojo Funds comes in on the track Change Your Life which swings back towards Afroswing, and overall is okay. It doesn’t invoke any strong emotions for me, and with a simple beat and instrumental, doesn’t really get you moving either.

Rubbish begins with a really interesting sample and piano tune, before being butchered by the autotune, again. A smart idea instantly dismissed, and the feature from G Frsh doesn’t really add much to the tail end of the track. His flow is decent and the highlight of the song, but it isn’t really amazing either.

Another Sloth interlude arrives before the last track, and the less said about it the better. Perhaps I’m being too harsh, because I do enjoy the premise, and to be fair, this is exactly what Sloth is known for, but it just becomes so jarring and over the top.

The final track Thriller is exactly the opposite of the title. A slow track, M Huncho joins Bane in another disinterested, autotuned flow which kinda sums up this project as a whole.

Overall I wouldn’t really recommend it, but if you’re sat around doing nothing better, and you really like Drill and Afroswing, then go for it.

Track Listing

  • Charlie Sloth Intro (Skit)
  • Drip From Me (C-)
  • Section (C)
  • Table For Two (C-)
  • Are You Mad (C+)
  • Father (C)
  • Charlie Sloth Interlude 1 (Skit)
  • Rockstar (C+)
  • MCM (C+)
  • Porsche (C-)
  • Change Your Life (C)
  • Rubbish (C)
  • Charlie Sloth Interlude 2 (Skit)
  • Thriller (C-)

Dark Lane Demo Tapes // Drake

Reviewed: 12/05/2020

Rating: 4.5 // 10

Genres: Pop Rap, Hip Hop, Trap Rap, Contemporary R&B

Released: 01/05/2020, OVO, Republic

Drake may have felt pressured to counteract a long list of leaks, but this release reeks of opportunism during a pandemic and an advertising stunt for his proper album release later this year.

It’s not everyday that you announce a new album by releasing another set of songs, but when you’re Drake you can get away with a bit more.

Officially, this is just a taster of what is to come – some of the songs have already been heard via leaks, and this was a move to combat that.

Yes, this is labeled as a mixtape of demo tracks. Yes, that implies this isn’t going to be Drake’s best work – but it doesn’t excuse the shoddy production throughout.

The optimist in me hopes that this means the content of his next project, slated for a summer release, will be far higher, but this is an artist who packs his LPs with filler and fodder.

His two disc LPs are full of forgettable and downright awful songs, so if this is the case again – and this is the quality that has been cut – it wouldn’t be unfair to only imagine a small improvement by the time summer comes around.

The kindest words I can say about this is that it is just background music – I think you could stick this on in one room, do every single chore all over the house, come back to the room and still feel you’re on the same track.

Chicago Freestyle has that decent re-working of the chorus from Eminem’sSuperman“, which ironically has a completely different tone to Drake’s nice guys finish last motif from this album. 

Chris Brown, despite his scumbag actions (towards Drake’s longtime crush, Rihanna, which saw Brown literally beat Rihanna to a pulp) and the frosty relationship between the two, somehow ends up on Not You Too.

He adds nothing to the song, experience, or sound of this track. The pair have no chemistry, (unsurprising considering how long they have spent beefing) and is just a feature for features’ sake.

Toosie Slide is geared towards the Tik-Tok audience who will help it spread quicker than a virus, and is probably the only track to live past this album. It is noticeably better produced compared to every thing else on this mixtape, which isn’t a surprise considering it was designed to go viral.

Future features on Desires, where Drake’s lyrics take a somewhat dark turn.

The debate whether Drake crossed a line or was overtly creepy has taken place before on social media, so my thoughts aren’t any thing new – to me, and many others, it has a bizarre thought process.

I should’ve put you somewhere where no one could find you (Ayy)

Mansion out in the sticks with nothin’ around you

This makes up the recurring chorus of the track, and to me, is such a poorly articulated sentiment. It isn’t about keeping someone safe, but rather preventing them from acting out their desires – such as leaving Drake. Truly a mind-boggling take.

Time Flies is an okay song. Largely forgettable with a few nice ideas, it falls under my description for the entire album – background music. Drake is King of Streaming, and I can see quite a few just leaving it on in the background.

There is an attempt at innovation of his overall sound on this, but the end product is still so safe and boring.

Landed, D4L Freestyle, and Pain 1993 caused a brief period of amnesia for myself – just lacking with any bite, idea or creativity. I wouldn’t even say that D4L Freestyle and Pain 1993 rely on their guest features (Future and Young Thug on the former, Playboi Carti on the latter) because the other artists bring nothing to the table.

The decision to use what seems to be the untouched audio from an Instagram live on the start of Losses is another example of poor production.

The closing two tracks sees Champagne Papi try his hand at a UK-style grime beat, and whilst I welcome the attempt, his voice noticeably tries to copy a UK drill accent, and it is painfully off.

Would I welcome similar beats on another album? Perhaps, but only if they weren’t botched by an attempt at the local accent.

Overall this is the scraps of an artist who has carved a niche for himself, and rarely tried anything else. It isn’t awful – it is below average Drake.

One can only hope that the quality vastly improves for his next effort.

Track Listing

  1. Deep Pockets (D+)
  2. When to Say When (D+)
  3. Chicago Freestyle (feat. Giveon) (C)
  4. Not You Too (feat. Chris Brown) (D)
  5. Toosie Slide (C-)
  6. Desires (feat. Future) (D-)
  7. Time Flies (D)
  8. Landed (D)
  9. D4L Freestyle (feat. Future & Young Thug) (D)
  10. Pain 1993 (feat. Playboi Carti) (D-)
  11. Losses (D-)
  12. From Florida With Love (D)
  13. Demons (feat. Fivio Foreign & Sosa Geek) (D-)
  14. War (D)