North London’s biggest rap honcho, Headie One, has proven again and again that when it comes to drill, he’s untouchable. Now, nearly a year after his debut album ‘Edna’ reached the top of the albums chart, here’s ‘Too Loyal For My Own Good: a feature-length mixtape that shows a more experimental side to the ‘Golden Boot’ rapper. His new mixtape explores the same commercial sonic style as ‘Edna’, but also find Headie doing things a little differently.
Things start slowly with ‘I’m Loyal…’, a low-key opener that displays Headie’s trademark delivery, his witty wordplay only taking off when the hissing hi-hats kick in: “Is there such a feelin’ as bein’ way too loyal? / Touch road and I grew some roses / Got straight out the mud of the soil.” On ‘2 Chains’, a string quartet evokes the sound you’d hope you’d hear at Heaven’s gates, beautifully complementing his holier-than-thou quips: “Something got drilled on Sunday, of course, I didn’t know what happened / I was chilling in my gaff with gang dem, we were listening to Kirk Franklin”.
The more experimental – and better – songs appears towards the end of ‘Too Loyal For My Own Good’, with tracks such as ‘Cry’ and ‘PTSD’ really shining through. Headie One sings! What a fact to finally find out after him releasing music for 11 years. On ‘PTSD’, he opts for more of a street anthem, rather than his typical drill sound or pop-rap crossover style.
Most UK street anthems take on a nostalgic trap sound, an Americanised beat providing the backdrop to a rapper’s soul-searching. Recounting the hardships of a life of crime, this kind of track often either offers braggadocio or awareness that the narrator lived through something traumatic. ‘PTSD’ has an air of both, since Headie One knows he’s a huge star and shouldn’t be in the streets, but confesses: “Cutting this money’s not giving me peace / Counting this money gives me release”. It’s a dilemma many might relate to: do you get rich quick, or hustle to the top?
This mixtape proves Headie One’s great musical ear: ‘Cry’ is an amazing listen, flipping Busta Rhymes’ 1997 classic ‘Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See’. Headie still delivers floorfillers, but never loses his rapping touch along the way. Featuring no help from his UK rapping mates, ‘Too Loyal For My Own Good’ should live on as a highlight of Headie’s discography. Think about how much the young man from Tottenham has grown in just a year as he sits pretty as an upper echelon of the UK scene.
Release date: October 1
Record label: Relentless Records