Mercston – ‘Top Tier’ review: grime’s golden boy deviates from his signature sound

His career has spanned two decades and, with a slew of mixtapes behind him, the cult rapper has finally released his debut studio album

A few groups have contributed to grime, Britain’s greatest cultural export of recent years. Take The Movement, the collective that propelled Bow emcee Mercston into the limelight. With his slick, skippy flows, he became grime’s sweet boy, but with six mixtapes to his name, 2020 seems like a great time for Mercston to release his debut album ‘Top Tier’.

There are always high hopes when a veteran like Mercston announces that he’s releasing an album. Here, though, the grime pioneer – who has almost 20 years in the business behind him – deviates from his trademark sound. If you’re expecting his signature twisted rhymes on ‘Top Tier’, you might be disappointed: tracks such as ‘T’s and C’s’ and ‘Mercs Skinner’ see him grime with its predecessor, garage. On the latter, the Bow emcee pays homage to The Streets’ frontman Mike Skinner, spinning a clear-eyed narrative worthy of of its subject – albeit via a dodgy Brum accent: “I think I cleared sum’in like a monkey today – We’re having it large, bosh!.”

But Mercston doesn’t forget his roots. ‘Top Tier’ is like a The Movement reunion record, the group coming together – minus except Scorcher – on two different tracks. On the title track, he teams up with his old mates Devlin and Ghetts to serve up razor-sharp bars, just like the good ol’ days. Each takes a verse to show offl Devlin uses his to reminisce on their collective in its prime: “Fuck Radio, what a brilliant time? / North meets east, we’re the brilliant minds”.

Since everyone else in The Movement’s making songs together, it’s only right that Mercston and Tottenham-raised Wretch 32 did one too. So, while celebrating their Jamaican heritage, the two stray away from the hardcore rhymes they’re known – lead single ‘No Banter’ depicts “Summertime fine, even in the winter”, exporting us out of this wintery cold to a beach in Barbados.

Yes, straight-up grime fans might be underwhelmed, but on a whole, this record is relevant to the current music scene, full of sunshine vibes as well as his quirky bars to bring old and young grime fans together.

Release date: January 24

Record label: KLM Records