East London production duo The HeavyTrackerz have helped to craft contemporary grime – they first charted in the UK with Meridian Dan’s infamous 2014 one-hit wonder ‘German Whip’ – and yet their second album sees them veer thrillingly away from the genre.
‘TRKRZ FM’ is pointedly not a grime record. With London heavyweights including Asher D (or Top Boy’s Ashley Walters to most), Scorcher and Yizzy a part of the line-up, at face value this should be an album full of loopy synths and zippy basslines at 140bpm. But – without any drill in sight either – this 10-track collection sees them celebrate the UK sound with a few legends.
There are only two female rappers on this record, but the MOBO 2016 Unsung award winner Alika and Lioness, the first lady of grime legends Mastermind Trooperz, arguably outshine their male peers here. With Lioness a seasoned grime MC and Alika a newcomer, it’s a thrilling combination. This is especially notable on ‘In Di Morning’, where Alika’s sing-song delivery meshes with Marvell Collective’s Double S’ nonchalant flow. As they relay a drunken night out and seeing a sweet one across the club, the two hope to “keep up with the vibes and them“.
But when the women aren’t showing the rest of the cast list up, this record boasts some fire grime spitters over trappy UK beats. ‘Put The Word Out’ is a stellar example of this, as south and east London collide over a modern rap track: Ghetts’ skittish, iconic flow meets Asher D using his gruff MC voice to boast about his successful Netflix and grime careers: “Who else you know could fuck up the summer with boxsets and hits? / Got my shot in like ‘Flix, I got the eight on me like Octopus“). The track oozes exuberant braggadocio.
Shockingly there’s an R&B track on ‘TRKRZ FM’: ‘Not Enough’ features a mysterious singer named Matt Willis (not that one, probably), this sombre, penultimate track a soothing addition to an otherwise rampant album. Yet the sense of calm doesn’t last.
There is only one grime track on this whole record: closer ‘Raise Your Glass – Remix’ features problematic Godfather of grime, Wiley, who in his opening bars raps: “This ting cyaan die / Let’s have a toast to grime / Raise your glasses high”. In the process, this veteran bars up with a few fresher faces including the self-proclaimed ‘Prince of grime’ Yizzy. As a concluding note, the track is a sweet ode to the Heavytrackerz’ come-up; though they may flirt with other sounds, they are grime goons at heart.
A bunch of verses and different rap styles across a short album, ‘TRKRZ FM’ isn’t only black British music personified, but also a nod to our old pirate radio roots. Most featured stars are pirate champions and there are radio-style interludes throughout; The HeavyTrackerz have delivered a concentrated capsule of 20 years’ worth of British excellence.
Release date: November 13
Record label: Trkrz Records