Loyle Carner - Yesterday's Gone
It's difficult to find a bad word said about South London's most important new rapper, Loyle Carner. In amongst the American gangster rap that dominates sales and ever-growing UK grime scene, Carner stands alone as a gifted young MC producing his own sensitive branch of hip-hop. Inspired in his early life by local grime artists Skepta and Kano and then by hip-hop legends like A Tribe Called Quest and Slum Village, his work is a unique mash of styles. His debut album Yesterday's Gone is making waves with its poignant bars and skillful production - for a rap record it's full of jazz and soul; opener 'Isle of Arran' introduces the mood with a sample of a 1969 gospel track.
This project wasn't a one man job, good friend Rebel Kleff worked closely with the rapper, Kleff's production bringing the hip-hop beats and clever sampling that elevate the album to its impressive status. Tom Misch, another up-and-coming young artist who's no stranger to sharing a track with Carner, features on one of the highlight tracks 'Damselfly'. Misch's sweet guitar chords and warm vocals on the chorus help give the song the light-hearted and romantic feel that separates it from the rest of the album. British hip-hop heavyweight Jehst makes an appearance on 'No Worries', a rap-heavy track that showcases Kleff's beats.
The lyrics are courageously honest and personal, combating much of the superficial materialism often found in rap with verses full of raw emotion. The whole record feels very candid, from the introspective nature of the writing to the non-musical interludes where we hear recorded conversations such as Carner bickering with his mum about swearing. The Londoner's deliverance is always eloquent, especially on tracks where the lines are more emotional and exposing. His vulnerability translates into a particularly sharp delivery that truly demonstrates his skill.
Family is Carner's main focus, in his life and in his writing. It's an unapologetic theme that persists through all of his work and is visually manifested in the album cover where he stands surrounded by those he cares about. The most extreme emotional moments on the record are dictated by their family focus - the delicate 'Florence' sees the rapper imagine a world with a little sister whilst the anger in opener 'Isle of Arran' is tangible as he addresses bereavement and his absent dad. Jean, the MC's beloved mum, features heavily both as a muse and a contributor; album closer 'Sun of Jean' ends with her reading a moving poem about her son where she astutely states 'music flows through him like a current'.