Kojey Radical – ‘Reason To Smile’ review: UK rap’s Renaissance man comes good

With his debut studio album, the Hoxton rapper delivers a collection of breathtaking, soulful tracks, sometimes blending grime and R&B

Kojey Radical has been a visionary in the UK’s rap world for a while. With an endearing quality to his jazz-led melodies, this east Londoner’s tales of perseverance, love and more benefit from his observational style. He’s able to push his pen to the greatest heights, and on his previous releases – such as his stellar ‘Cashmere Tears’ EP and ‘Payback’, this album’s lead single featuring budding star Knucks – he’s proved that A-class lyrical tricks come naturally to him. And in finally releasing his debut album ‘Reason To Smile’, Kojey Radical is ready to cement his nostalgic musicality into the UK rap canon.

Over the course of 15 tracks, the Hoxton-born rapper takes you through different spheres, from the autonomous feel of ‘Talking’ featuring the legendary alt-pop star Kelis to the whimsical feel of the smooth saloon-ready ‘Silk’ with the saxophone-wielding crooner Masego. But the latter truly represents the Kojey Radical we all know and love dearly. Those aforementioned witty bars are showcased first with his crooned bellow, which invokes his signature cadence: “Someone said I’m underrated that was news to me / ‘Cause the fam’ sleep good and eat beautifully”.

But the further you delve into the album, the more exploratory Kojey gets, with tracks such as ‘Born’ with Jamaican-British rap star Cashh stretching Radical’s discography into afro-bashment. And ‘Beautiful’ – his collaboration with the grime legend Wretch 32 and R&B heavyweight Shakka – is a perfect example of how soulful he can get while remaining in the realm of hip-hop. Both formidable artists know how to deliver dreamy takes on their respected genres, and here we get a glimpse of Kojey’s full potential as he expertly blends the two disciplines together: “I can love you in a bonnet ‘cause your leather’s nice / You serve it up, I’ve got it down, I’ve got an appetite”.

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Kojey Radical sells us the image of refined Renaissance man he has become, rather than merely resting on his potential – it would be easy to do so, as he has bags of the stuff. He has always been a reliable star for those who want high lyrical content, but can also enjoy a banger on a purely surface musical level. It’s an astonishingly hard trick to pull off. He boasts a pretty flawless discography already, so hopefully there’s still room for him to grow.

Details

Record label: Asylum/Atlantic Records

Release date: March 4

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