In an age where Hip-Hop is often hypersexualised, simultaneously regarded as being aggressive and materialistic, it is both unique and wonderful when all that takes a backseat to raw emotion.
Precisely this is happening in South London with 20 year old rapper Loyle Carner. Despite only one EP, Carner’s fledgling career can boast more intensely personal music in one song than most artists can in an entire discography.
Loyle Carner released his A Little Late EP a little less than a year ago on his soundcloud page and it remains somewhat of a hidden gem in UK Hip-Hop. Those who had heard of Carner by this point probably heard him on Rejjie Snow’s Rejovich, specifically on the song 1992. Carner burst out with an extremely well-constructed guest verse, detailing his growing apathy towards women, before going on to expatiate his relationship with his father, who left his mother to raise Loyle on her own at the age of two, concluding that both he and his mother were strong enough to go through life without a father figure.
That was my first Loyle Carner experience, and he has continued to impress. Aside from exquisite collaborations with artists such as Kate Tempest and Tom Misch, Carner’s first solo release was also a triumph. Backed by producer Rebel Kleff, each of the six tracks in A Little Late EP tell their own enthralling and deeply personal story.
BFG is a seriously strong opener. Anyone who has had to do a lot of growing up in a short space of time will undoubtedly relate to Carner’s lyrics, centering around the theme of the death of his stepdad, Steven Vengeance. Capturing so much of that initial stage of disbelief, he blasts those who don’t understand his sorrow with the refrain ‘Everyone says I’m fucking sad/Of course I’m fucking sad, I miss my fucking dad.’
A Little Late EP holds its own throughout, with lyrics such as ‘love to lust in a heartbeat’ and the ambiguity of double and even triple entendres ensorcelling as much as they deter the listener. Confusion and grief are conveyed with poetic ability that truly breaks one’s heart, but another triumph of this project is that it plays upon that despair so well while at the same time containing the euphonius Pieces, which is as far from morbid as a song can be.
How does Loyle Carner follow up such a stunning debut? We can’t know for sure, but we can probably expect similar production from his next release. Despite citing grime as a major personal influence, that genre doesn’t translate into an artistic influence for Carner. Speaking on grime, he stated that “I grew up on it. It was my life for a long time, and it changed my life. I could just go to school and be like, ‘Yeah, this is me.’ It gave me a voice.” Upon listening however, it is clear that A Little Late EP was heavily inspired by the instrumentals of Madlib, Pete Rock, A Tribe Called Quest and Slum Village, all borrowing from a similar style.
This idolatry of 90s jazz-hop icons hasn’t gone unnoticed by the American Hip-Hop community: Carner’s first ever gig just happened to be supporting the reclusive MF DOOM in Dublin, and last year he toured with Joey Bada$$. Real recognise real? Certainly. Loyle Carner is one to watch, proving unequivocally the ignorance of the argument that grime and British Hip-Hop are one and the same.
Listen to Loyle Carner’s A Little Late EP here.