With this new project, east Londoner rapper Kojey Radical proves to be one of this generation’s most stunning storytellers. He’s often described as a ‘renaissance man’, and Kojey’s words often set him apart from other competitors; there’s a reason his first EP, 2016’s ’23Winters’, debuted at #3 on the UK rap and hip-hop charts. Having stepped into 2019 strong with a sold-out headline show and Pusha T cosign under his belt, he has now released an effortless-sounding 10-track EP. ‘Cashmere Tears’ is a tale of deeply emotional tales of everyday life.
Radical’s gruff vocals prove a bittersweet paradigm. The opening track ‘Where Should I Begin’ is a perfect example of powerful wordplay. A hybrid of spoken word and boom-bap rap, it tells a few hard truths as the rapper explores his journey to fame, speaking for many black males who may be afraid to address their issues. On the uplifting single ‘Can’t Go Back’, the rapper talks about his depression. Black males are 17 times more likely to be diagnosed with severe mental illness than white males; Kojey’s speaking out on the matter is as radical as his moniker. Mental illness is often taboo in the black community, so his empathetic nature (“Then why you runnin’, for real? / You say you stressed, man – I was stressed too”) is highly valuable.
Yet there is a lighter side to this album, evident in the higher register of his vocal on ‘Hours’. It’s reminiscent of Prince’s 1986 classic ‘Kiss’, the polarising reverb on Radical’s vocals silky smooth over a funky bassline. It’s sensual, sexual and summed up perfectly by the whimsical spoken-word piece at the beginning: “I pulled love from a grain of dust, and risked it all for a night of love.” Helping to bring the funk to the modern-day, Kojey Radical is opening our ears to a funky resurgence.
When we’re not getting down in the groove, the likes of ‘Sugar’ (featuring breathless vocals from Amaarae) offer is the perfect mix of light and shade. Delving into the topic of love, lust and vices, he tells many tales in the space of three minutes: “I cold play into yellow, you more like Othello/ Self-serving your mellow for likes”.
The latter half of the album feels like a revelation of self-worth. This is especially true of ‘Eleven’, a track on which Radical tells a story of self-realisation after a long fight with life. It sounds like a poem to himself as well as about himself: “Settle down / You’ve been a king / Without a crown”. The moving final track, ‘Last Night’, concludes Radical’s story. Reminiscing those nightly woes, he leaves us with a poetic ending about his talk with God: “I spoke to God last night, and she said the right thing may not always come out the right way…And that’s fine, that’s life”.
His talk with God left him with some advice that we all could use. ‘Last Night’ shifts from a cry for help to affirmation, words for all those times you felt you couldn’t get out of a rut. Leaving us with an overarching feeling of self-reassurance after his exploration of life, Kojey Radical here celebrates life’s imperfections. No matter how gloomy the world may seem, everything’s for a reason – we’ve just got to find it.