With grime topping festival bills and making serious dents in the charts, it’s easy to forget there’s a parallel strain of British street music that exists far from the headlines. Generally known as road rap, its dourly dramatic sonics and gritty subject matter – drug-dealing, organised crime, the gang life – is spiritually closer to US trap than anything from these shores. Road rap is grime’s fearsome, cold cousin – and Giggs is its king.
A 33-year-old former Peckham gang member named Nathaniel Thompson, Giggs dropped a string of mixtapes in the early ’00s, signed to XL, and released two albums that didn’t really sell – although his friends in the Metropolitan Police, who appear determined to prevent him from setting foot on a UK stage, may have had a role in that. Now on his own label, SN1, ‘Landlord’ finds Giggs squaring his gritty past with a newly respectable existence outside the trap. He’s the guv’nor of the title, an elder statesman and father of two, and a six-minute banger titled ‘The Blow Back’ speaks candidly about his new life: employing a gardener, going to shops in his pyjamas, etc. But then Stormzy pops up for 36 of his hardest bars and an MCnamed Dubz threatens to “put an instrument to your neck, just like a violin”. The message: once gangsta, always gangsta.
All this lends ‘Landlord’ an interesting tension. ‘Of Course’ wrestles with grief for fallen brothers and the pressures of parenthood, while ‘Just Swervin’ explores the loneliness of the ex-gang member, even as it hints that some of that old lifestyle lingers. Giggs’ delivery blends menace and sly comedy (“Big handful of green/I got that Oscar the Grouch here”), while particularly choice lines are punctuated with a grunt, or a laugh so sinister it’d make the Grim Reaper soil his cloak.
The occasional leaden production job remains the album’s main stumbling block. But if Giggs is unlikely to follow Stormzy into the mainstream, it’s hard to deny this record’s bleak intensity or lyrical command. He might have stepped back from the streets, but ‘Landlord’ still sounds like the work of a boss.
An Apology to Giggs
NME would like to make an unreserved apology to Giggs. In our earlier review of ‘Landlord’, a lyric was misheard which completely altered the context and our understanding of the track ‘The Process’. In the track Giggs says “man rates her”, which was incorrectly interpreted as “man rapes her”.
This was gravely inaccurate on our part, and has caused unnecessary pain to Giggs, his management and his fans. We accept all blame for the error, which should never have happened.
NME has been a huge champion of Giggs throughout his career, and we would like to state that this was a genuine mistake.
That does not alter the fact that this should have been avoided, therefore we reiterate our apologies to Giggs and to anyone else affected by the review.
- Release date: 05 Aug, 2016