“The aim is to bring hope to people after the maddest year”, London rapper Barney Artist has said of ‘The Locket’, his new collaborative album with Bombay Bicycle Club frontman Jack Steadman – aka Mr Jukes. The latter released his debut Mr Jukes album, the funk-inspired ‘God First’ in 2017, and the pair have been collaborating for the past 18 months. The result is an album stuffed full of good vibes.
The opening title track spells things out clearly. “Me and Jack are building these hymns / No angels sing”, Barney raps in his gruff tone over towers of brass and boisterous beats. “I’m sending these bars to your spirit and soul”, he adds, telling the listener that the sounds are designed to lift you emotionally while keeping you crucially rooted to Earth where the party can come to glorious fruition.
The record really picks up, though, when ‘Déjà Vu’ and lead single ‘Vibrate’ kick in. On the former Barney is insightful amid a loungey cloud of moody reflection and recreational drugs. “Maintain through the haze and shrooms / Vacate from the haze and dooms”, he spits over a sophisticated backdrop of organ synths, twinkling keys and muscular bass. When he promises, “Taste that peace in the air tonight”, he ushers in the track’s silky smooth chorus on which Steadman sings about the vulnerabilities of love.
‘Vibrate’, meanwhile, stacks blocks of brass and woodwind over a sharp hip-hop beat atop which Barney details the dark side of the music industry and lays out a plan to positively fight back: “This is a handbook for the damn crooks / Go find what the man took.”
‘All For You’ is a pretty though inconsequential harp-driven tune on which Steadman sings about unrequited love. The mellow ‘Autumn Leaves’, featuring north London rapper Lex Amor, is similarly bloodless but these lower moments are buoyed by the album’s closer ‘Gratitude’ where a gospel chorus evokes the ‘The Locket’’s MO: “This music is a source of strength / Hope you relate”. The song proffers access to the celestial via the deep, intangible connection music brings; it’s the album’s key track and finds Barney appreciating the faith that, ironically, brings him down to Earth.
‘The Locket’ is a joyful celebration of life and its journeys, soundtracked by supple soul, hip-hop and jazz stylings that feel as natural as the joining of these two artists united in a shared pursuit.
Release date: August 6
Record label: Locket Records