In the land of Ken Loach and Stormzy – that king of British rap who recently graced the cover of Time Magazine – the rhythms are rougher than on the other side of the Atlantic. British rappers are still practiced in the art of killer rhymes and whip-smart flows.
Sometimes, UK trap, grime and drill boil down to a series of ferocious raps without choruses, the words slicing through sound, machete-like. The production of pitched, distorted, vocoded, looped and filtered voices is usually central to these minimalist soundscapes. All it takes is a few mournful piano chords over a chiseled beat to launch a new London gutter classic.
However, the old recipes still work of course – a sung chorus and a psychedelic guitar, and Headie One has over 100 million streams with “Ain’t It Different”. In contrast, the young unknown ArrDee from Brighton has only released three tracks so far, but his phrasing is already impressive for its mastery and ease on “6am in Brighton”. With hits and discoveries, superstars and newcomers, this playlist covers the year 2020 and the first quarter of 2021. And it definitely doesn’t shy away from notable hits, hybrid digital sounds or street anthems too hardcore for the radio.