Archy Marshall’s growl is a thing of beauty. Whether it’s kicking off the opening guitar run of raging punk-jazz rout ‘A Lizard State’ or dropping the final bomb of ‘Rock Bottom’’s heartfelt outro verse, the south London multi-hyphenate has a knack for saying more with a roar than most people could with a sentence.
It’s this pained rawness in his voice, a low baritone forged in the depths of south London amid a musical upbringing of blues, jazz, soul, reggae, ska & hip-hop, that made Marshall’s debut album ‘6 Feet Beneath The Moon’ such a cult hit. Released under his King Krule moniker on 24 August 2013 and described then by NME as “a self-portrait that captures the atmosphere of contemporary London better than anyone else, except maybe Burial, has managed in recent years,” the record left a generation of UK indie lovers captivated by Marshall’s powerful blend of stoner trip-hop and high-octane brass-packed DIY punkishness. It created common ground between lovers of east coast hip-hop’s darker strands and fans of reverb-drenched B-town bands like Peace and JAWS; ten years on, musicians and creatives are still being inspired by the project.
“I was round my boy’s house, and one of my friends started playing ‘Easy Easy’, and I’m like “What is this?!” says 18-year-old east Londoner Rio Rainz, recalling his first encounter with King Krule. The young artist’s brand of introspective bedroom rap derives from a range of influences including lover’s rock, reggae, pop and drill; this eclecticism is something he recognises and values in Marshall’s work. “Taking influence from your favourite things and merging it into your own world that is so unique to you… that’s what King Krule does, it’s a fusion. There’s a cohesiveness in his music, but every King Krule song has a different feel.”
“He’s inspired a lot of people,” says versatile Shepherd’s Bush rapper Finn Foxell, known for distinctive, honest storytelling on tracks like ‘Buddha’ and ‘Leaders’. “‘6 Feet…’ felt so real and unfiltered,” he reflects. “How he talks, the vibe he gives off, there’s something attractive about it. Within a line or two you can be like ‘That’s Krule’ — learning to make anything that I make sound like Finn regardless of genre, that’s something I definitely saw Krule do.”
On ‘6 Feet…’, Marshall kicks off that sonic journey with the visceral inner city storytelling of ‘Easy Easy’. Defined by angry shouts of “Same old bobby, same old beat” and “Now Tesco’s stealing my money!”, it’s a track deeply anchored to everyday south London life, as evidenced by a grainy music video featuring Marshall and his mates Pinty and Jadasea running across railway tracks and going twos on roll-ups while perched on a rooftop. The track was King Krule’s breakthrough release, its stripped-back simplicity resonating with young fans across the UK.
“When you hear him singing, you can hear the emotion in his voice, especially on tracks like ‘Easy Easy’ and ‘Baby Blue’,” says fellow London artist Lisong, one-third of rising rap-punk outfit Frozemode. “His vocals sound very raw… it really feels like it’s coming from the heart.” Growing up in the capital in the 2010s, Marshall’s music provided an honest, deeply relatable soundtrack to Lisong and his bandmates Cho-Hollo and I.V.GATLIN.
“Even though he’s very chill, there’s something about it that gets me riled up,” adds IV.GATLIN. “It’s kinda dreamy, and a little transcendent, but it also gets me a little aggy — not chilled, not hype, something in between.” This paradox is captured poignantly in Marshall’s ‘Out Getting Ribs’, with its twisting, turning, reverb-drenched guitar riff and intimate reflections on a faltering relationship (“My tongue was in love / But my heart was left above”). Admittedly, the album version is a slight downgrade on the subtler, more vulnerable ‘Zoo Kid’ rendition released in 2011; yet it retains the tortured, almost broken vocal tone of the original, and is framed around the deep, cavernous echoes that give ‘6 Feet…’ so much of its ambience and atmosphere.
On ‘Neptune Estate’, Marshall’s heavy-handed approach to the reverb dial is ramped up further. A sprawling five-minute fusion of J Dilla-esque drum samples, moody keys and full-bodied sax melodies that ooze and quiver to summon images of dingy underground jazz cafes and pipe smoke, it’s one of the record’s most arresting songs. “That is one of my heartbreak anthems,” laughs Foxell. “It’s a brain spill of a song but it sounds so perfect.” Lyrically, it’s one of many tracks on ‘6 Feet…’ laced with a vulnerability that’s helped listeners across the globe forge meaningful connections with this album.
Scan the comments below any King Krule video on YouTube, and the power of his artistic voice immediately becomes clear; “No matter what you are going through he takes you to places beyond that pain, problem, or situation” sums up one fan under ‘Rock Bottom’. For countless people going through the mill, Marshall’s music has offered a lifeline, his naked honesty making listeners feel like they’re not alone. Communicating the struggles, stresses, and anxieties of a generation of young Brits growing up in an increasingly turbulent world — and since then, broader issues of social isolation, inequality, political instability, and climate breakdown have only worsened — King Krule’s voice has resonated with fans on a deep personal level.
When you consider the fact that ‘6 Feet…’ was released on Marshall’s 19th birthday (with many of the tracks on the album written when he was seventeen or eighteen), the potency of his lyricism is remarkable. “He was doing stuff when he was super young that you don’t really see a teenager doing,” says Rio Rainz.
Harnessing what I.V.GATLIN observes as “the mixture of somewhat poetic stuff alongside super down-to-earth random bars”, he shifts from the soft, desperate-sounding laments of ‘Neptune Estate’ — “Can’t you bare just one more night?” — to ‘Easy Easy”s bitter, socially-conscious cry of “Your dead end job’s been eating away your life”. The jumpiness with which these shifts sometimes occur only strengthens the accuracy of the album’s portrayal of 19-year-old Archy Marshall. Unashamedly flawed and mentally all over the place, he lurches between ruminations on isolation and romantic rejection to fierce jabs at the price of a Tesco sandwich. You might see him in a crisp beige suit, but rest assured he’ll have a JD bag slung over the shoulder. Marshall’s new album ‘Space Heavy’ is authentic in a different way; his sound has mellowed, matured, and become more cohesive. But for the nostalgic, the words King Krule will always bring to mind the brash, undeniable relatability of ‘6 Feet…’.