D-Block Europe have done some astronomical things in their stint in the limelight. Since February 2019, they’ve released three mixtapes and a debut album, all of which have charted in the Top 10 of the UK Album charts (though never quite at Number One). They’re a rap phenomenon who’ve transitioned from underground superstars to high-value pop juggernauts. And while this, their second studio album, doesn’t boast quite as many DBE classics as those illustrious 2019 mixtapes, they show precisely why their formula works, and offer room for growth.
The Lewisham collective composed of – Young Adz and Dirtbike LB – are at pains to show they’ve matured, and are no longer the teenagers that first emerged onto the rap scene. They dash away lines of the frivolousness of miscellaneous sex for sheer love: the fluttering afroswing-inspired ‘She’s Not Any One’ makes sense given Adz’s recent marriage.
The gooiest love song on the album comes via an Ed Sheeran collaboration, ‘Lonely Lovers’, who joins Burna Boy on the album’s cast list. Sheeran doesn’t try to match the boys, but Adz and LB tone it down to match the sombre lyrics of the singer-songwriter: “We all feel the cold in summer / All of us lonely lovers / In the light and the glow of a broken soul”.
While afroswing sound isn’t DBE’s signature sound – wavey US-style trap music is – they make a valiant effort. ‘Fantasy’ has a bland beat to rap over, but the collective’s lyrics are endearing and Adz’ comical wit keeps the interest: “Pretty little thing parcel came late, so you’re angry / Cool down darlin’, don’t take it out on family”.
The Lewisham collective are truly in their stride when they can blend the more traditional hip-hop styles with suave melodies. Adz’ finest moment arrives ‘Bando Baby Diaries’ as he turns off his auto-tune to tell the tale of his old life before he became a rap superstar: “And you know how the dirty game ended / Fighting for his life with a murder case pending”. Dirtbike LB, meanwhile, shines on ‘Pass The Parcel’ which balances the swagger of their past releases, and their new loved-up approach. While this record as a whole doesn’t quite hit the heights of those mixtapes, their speedy work-rate ensures that the magic will be felt again soon enough.
Release date: September 23, 2022
Record label: D-Block Europe