Unknown T – ‘Rise Above Hate’ review: Hackney rapper pushes drill into thrilling new directions

The 'Homerton B' driller's rapid rise was halted by a jail spell, but this eclectic mixtape, featuring AJ Tracey, suggests he'll go the distance

Hackney driller Unknown T has enjoyed a whirlwind start to his rap career. ‘Homerton B’, the trailblazing, name-making club banger that showed off his unique flow and immensely deep vocals, was a massive hit in 2018. But a sudden stint in jail derailed him for about a year; now he’s “buss case”, fresh home out of the slammer with a couple bangers.

The triumphant 16-song mixtape gets off to a modest start. As is usually the case, 21-year-old Daniel Lena’s trademark skippy flows take centre stage, but on some of the opening tracks – see moody recent single ‘Deh Deh’ – his nimble delivery already feels a little overfamiliar. Yet the highly-anticipated mixtape switches its sound with ‘Addicts’, which features 2019’s breakthrough star M Huncho. Over a trap beat, which fits with the auto-tuned Huncho’s melody, the Londoners reminisce on the fiends they used to serve when they lived in challenging surroundings: “That people’s parents, they were drug addicts / And I can’t lie, yeah, I used to sell drugs to the addicts”. Unknown T’s delivery is stellar – so deadpan, so matter-of-fact.

There’s knockout talent throughout, with TikTok stars Young T and Bugsey appearing on the buoyant ‘Main Squeeze’ and former AJ Tracey assisting on fan favourite ‘Leave Dat Trap’, which showcases a more commercial, laidback sound for the drill heavyweight. Yet the featherweight ‘Mortal Kombat’ is the true highlight of ‘Rise Above Hate’, slowing down the quick-witted rapper. His clearly enunciated rhymes form one of the slickest and most unique drill flows around. The Nyge-produced banger sees Unknown T make the most of his trademark explosive delivery of the letter ‘B’, a trait his fans love him for: “We get free drinks, I served that batch / But you feel arff, you’re way too brass”.

If that sounds like fan service – don’t worry, there are curveballs aplenty here. Drill purists may balk at the prospect, but this writer loves to hear ‘SS Interlude’, a smooth snippet of R&B that sees the drill juggernaut team up with Disturbing London’s silky voiced Kali Claire. The sumptuous track is further evidence of drill expanding into more diverse sounds.

It might have got off to a shaky start, but ‘Rise Above Hate’ should prove to be a pivotal record for Unknown T. Steering himself away from his drill roots, the rapper shows the UK that he isn’t one to sleep on. There’s much, more to Lena than ‘Homerton B’, and this eclectic mixtape suggests he’ll go the distance.

Details

Release Date: July 17

Record Label: Island Records

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