Warren Hue has seemingly never been short of confidence. “OK, your shit mediocre / I’m so fly they feeding those birds,” he rapped on his very first release, 2018’s ‘Yellow’, when he was just 16 years old. While youthful exuberance might have had him speaking a little ahead of his time, the arrival of his debut solo album four years on really sees him living up to such big declarations.
As is obvious from its title alone, ‘Boy Of The Year’ doesn’t see the Jakarta rapper, now 20, stop gassing himself up, but is instead a refined continuation of that cocksure tradition. “Part of being GOAT, sheeps question my analysis,” he explains on ‘Thirtynine’, while ‘W’ – already a contender for one of the songs of the year – finds him simultaneously paying tribute to Virgil Abloh and setting himself up for big things: “RIP Virg; I’m on the verge of being Top 10.” Hue is so self-assured he’s even sampled NME making this very observation on the bouncy, Strokes-y banger ‘Jade’ (we’ll keep an eye out for the royalty cheques, Warren).
All of these moments would feel like hollow boasting if this album wasn’t as brilliant as it is. But, as one of the most accomplished debuts in recent memory, ‘Boy Of The Year’ fully justifies the belief its creator has in himself and then some, feeling like the work of a very special young artist who is overflowing with ideas.
Although it’s bookended by a pair of more emotional cuts – ‘Chords And Pressures’ and the title track respectively – this is a record that largely puts the focus on fire and flow, but always keeps things interesting. ‘Handsome’, which opens with a verse that’s half-purred, half-growled, offers a scorching take on the materialistic and superficial markers of success: “Warren got multiple bands, spend it on unreleased pants / iPhone lens, hit dance / Put lil shawty in a trance.”
There’s no shortage of genre-hopping here, either. ‘Demostar Beenlit’ is ominously discordant as its big, one-note piano stabs clash with high-pitched whirrs, while ‘I$EY’ matches Hue’s dexterous rapping with a womping garage beat. ‘Runaway W Me’ slows things down at first with a woozier intro, but then kicks things up into a crisper, more vibrant gear shortly after. It’s a prime example of the knack the young star has for lifting up off-kilter sounds – here, a semi-screeching melody set over glittering synth ripples – and making them the centrepiece of something intriguing and immediately infectious.
There are a couple of issues that prevent ‘Boy Of The Year’ from being a truly flawless debut, namely the record’s over-reliance on referring to women as “bitches”, and the moment the title track slips into slightly cheesy territory with an overblown guitar solo you’d more typically associate with Queen. Still, the album offers up an incredibly exciting prospect: a young artist, far from his peak, already making undeniably great work. ‘Boy Of The Year’? The title is Warren Hue’s to lose.
Release date: July 29
Record label: 88rising