Giggs – ‘Now Or Never’ review: surprise mixtape sees UK rap star step aside for the next gen

The likes of Jorja Smith, Dave and Obongjayar shine while Giggs takes a back seat on this 16-track release, the work of an artist whose legacy is secure

Over a long and illustrious career, Giggs has always done what he wants. The legendary south London rapper’s latest project, ‘Now Or Never’, is a continuation of this ethos. Though the 16-track surprise-released mixtape doesn’t exactly revolve around experimental aspirations, the record does draw from several genres as the rapper deftly fuses them into a cohesive potpourri of an album. In a year in which old UK heads such as Dizzee Rascal have released projects, Giggs is the latest to fall in line, but ‘Now Or Never’ doesn’t quite possess the same dynamism.

Instead ‘Now Or Never’ flows smoothly between grime, dancehall, Afrobeats, rolling trap production and introspective hip-hop – all tied together by Giggs’ signature rugged rap approach. This is a diverse project, its strength in the army of guest stars who help elevate the project significantly; it’s when Giggs is by himself that the collection stands on its weakest legs. Several tracks, especially the moody ‘Hoochies’ and and the languid ‘Krash’, feels uninspired (and the latter contains the seriously iffy line: “It’s broken, don’t try and fix it / That’s right, this rap’s autistic”).

The best tracks on ‘Now Or Never’ feature heavyweight appearances. In sumptuous voice, Scottish crooner Emeli Sandé carries ‘It’s Hard’ on her shoulders. US rapper A Boogie wit da Hoodie makes ‘Changed Me’ the infectious tune it deserves to be, while south London MC Kyze and Jamaican reggae and dancehall musician Demarco bring flavour to ‘100 Reps’ and ‘Everybody Dead’. West Midlands R&B star Jorja Smith’s intimate and playful voice floats over a mellowed-out Rbeat on ‘I’m Working’, while Londoner Obongjayar boasts a head-turning feature onthe brittle ‘Don’t Be Shy’. Giggs even manages to bring on underground figures such as Liverpool rapper Aystar and Peckham’s Tiny Boost. The standout featured artist, though, is Dave, who further cementing his status as one of the UK’s brightest talents on the sobering ‘Straight Murder’.

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Many of these artists are leading the charge of a new generation of UK superstars. Though Giggs artfully cedes space throughout the mixtape, choosing to collaborate and spotlight artists rather than hide them in the margins, ‘Now Or Never’ isn’t quite as strong as his previous work. There’s no denying Giggs’ enormous talent, but here he uses this platform to lift up a new generation while giving himself the time to reflect on a storied career. He’s earned that.

Release date: November 6

Record label: Universal/Island

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