Album review: Professor Green - 'Alive Till I'm Dead' (Virgin)

Pop hooks, big samples and guest vocalists abound, but its only on his own that this East Londoner shines

As ‘Alive Till I’m Dead’ begins, there’s a distinct worry that the guest vocalists are going to outshine the artist. A heavy-hitting trio of Emeli Sandé, Lily Allen and Ed Drewett hold up the pop front, with Green playing a cheeky-chappy role in the background. However, delve deeper and the jaunty jack-the-lad of the singles peels away to show a far more disillusioned, aggressive and interesting character.

Hand-picked by Mike Skinner for The Beats (Skinner’s now-defunct record label), what Green lacks in nifty rhymes, he makes up for in tone. Vowels slide and consonants spit with vengeance. Once hailed as the British Eminem, his mixture of petulance, anger and sometimes saccharine elements (see ‘Goodnight’ – dedicated to his nan, who raised Green) illustrate the similarities.

But once the ’90s-sampling hooks (INXS, The SOS Band) are left on the sideboard, it’s the record’s mid-section where the real Green starts to sparkle. ‘Oh My God’ (feat Labyrinth) is a definite step up, Green’s flow out in full force. Thematically, it’s a less PC version of Tinie Tempah’s ‘Pass Out’ (“Catch a whiff of my fingers and you still smell Susan”), and there’s even a nod to the little ’un (a muttered ‘Frisky’). ‘Jungle’ is a kind of Hackney Life Of Pi, re-imagining East London as, well, a jungle – “They’ll eat on you/They laugh about it like hyenas do/Stick to breezing through like cheetahs do”. ‘Falling Down’ details Green’s record label woes (“I’m stuck at Warners and them pricks won’t push my album”) and is probably one of the few rap songs to contain the line “I’m so fed up”. Unfortunately, a pensive love ballad and a tortured-artist track bookend the record, meaning that instead of closing on a bang, it whimpers out soppily – on the orchestral ‘Goodnight’, Green bemoans “the curse that I’m blessed with”. It’s no curse, Prof – it’s a real talent. Now, if only you’d ditch the samples, and the introspective love songs and get back to basics, you’d realise that for yourself.

Ailbhe Malone

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