Various Artists – ‘This Is UK Rap Vol 1’

This just isn't grimey enough

The problem with UK hip-hop is the ‘UK’ bit. I’ve never seen the logic in trying to compete with a genre that’s so characteristically American. Not least because surely grime is our hip-hop, and grime is where we’re still progressive. In contrast, on this compilation we have tracks like ‘Champagne Campaign’ where Ratlin chats about, erm, champagne (who’d have thunk it!) with a weak rip-off of a Lex Luger beat.

Then there’s ‘Can’t See Me’ from up-and-comer English Frank, who while I won’t deny is lyrically talented, walks the well-trodden path of rapping about how “hard life is y’all!” over a tinkling piano. Then of course there’s Sneakbo and the Bonnie to his Clyde, OG Niki, the 17-year-old who shot to viral fame after a freestyle about getting seen to by several men in one night. So you’d totally have high expectations for their collab-track ‘Freak’, right? Well don’t, because it sounds like it was knocked out in their lunchbreak.

It’s not all doom and gloom, mind. The beacons of light come by way of the scene’s successes. ‘It’s All Love’’s boring but inoffensive brand of hip-pop with Bashy and Wretch 32 is welcome respite, and Giggs features on another ‘fuck the police’-themed track. You know what you’re getting with Giggs; he’s like a good Sunday lunch. The standout track is from London femcee Lioness, who combines bullet-like MCing over a dense, almost grime beat on ‘The Bomb’. Which takes me back to my original point. This showcase of UK talent is by no means a bad listen, just underwhelming. If you’re already a fan of the scene, buy it. But if you’re looking for something to lose your shit over, listen to grime.

Jo Fuertes Knight