With their sixth and final mixtape, ‘All The Smoke’, south London rap six-piece Smoke Boys – aka Knine, Inch, Deepee, Sleeks, Littlez and Swift – bow out at the height of their powers. Featuring the likes of UK rap legends Dizzee Rascal, K.Trap and RV, this record encapsulates everything that made the group acclaimed in the first place: intricate wordplay overlaid by exemplary production, all underpinned by the grisly scenes they paint of their surroundings.
Having first appeared a decade ago as Section Boyz, the group have made waves with their anthemic tracks – in particular, 2015’s ‘Trapping Ain’t Dead’ and ‘Lock Arff’. They even caught the attention of Drake, who, alongside Skepta, made a surprise appearance at their headline show in 2015 at The Village Underground in east London. Shortly afterwards, the group took a hiatus and re-emerged in 2018 as Smoke Boys.
Produced entirely by underground hero MK the Plug, ‘All The Smoke’ blends grime with hip-hop and road rap, all while weaving in elements of trap and drill. A haunting synth line lurks insidiously in the background of the entire mixtape, binding it all together. ‘Click My Finger’, ‘Intro’, ‘9 Lives’ and ‘Tripz’ are bass-heavy and infectious, memorable for the pared-back production that leaves ample space for the vocals.
There are a number of stand-out tracks on the EP, notably the icy ‘Ski Mask’ featuring K.Trap and RV and the buoyant ‘Justin Bieber’ with Dizzee Rascal. Yet it’s ‘Click My Finger’, in particular, that embodies Smoke Boys’ strength as a collective. Their world-building has always been admirable, but on tracks such as ‘Smoke Fetish’, they reflect on their lives before the group emerged, realising how far they’ve come: “If you never make a move / You won’t get it / I remember no phone / No phone credit”.
These 10 tracks also demonstrates the strengths of drill & grime, the group’s members’ lyrical energies riding over one another as they trade verses like a game of hot potato. The rappers constantly attempt to one-up one another, knowing it’s the way to get the best out of each member.
When they announced on Twitter that this would be their last outing, Smoke Boys wrote: “Thank you to everybody that’s ever been a part of our journey… We’ve made a mark in the music industry with some of the historical events we made happen.” The group’s departure is a huge loss to UK rap as a whole, but at least frees these artists up to focus on individual projects, as they leave a legacy that’ll last generations.
Release date: October 30
Record label: Smoke Boys Music