TOP BOY (VARIOUS ARTISTS)

RELEASED 13TH SEPTEMBER 2019

Favourite track: One Summer

This album, inspired by the trending Netflix series, is full of UK Rap artists you’ll recognise who use verse, beats and basslines to craft a haunting and truthful story of the streets.

After a good few recommendations from friends, I decided to start watching the Netflix series Top Boy. In fairness, I had heard of Top Boy way back in 2011 when the series first aired but I never bothered to actually watch it. However, because of Drake’s involvement in getting a new series out there, I saw it advertised all over the internet and various UK meme pages .I’m only four episodes in to this new season (I think I should really have watched the earlier series but hey) and it’s already a gripping series full of the harsh realities of being involved in the drug trade in East London. The characters are really well portrayed and I was surprised to see UK rapper, Dave, featuring in the series as ‘Modie’. What definitely stands out about this season is the soundtrack to accompany it. I came across the album which is ‘A selection of music inspired by the series’ on Spotify and saw just how many UK rappers were featured on it. If you’re a fan of UK Rap and Grime (or just a fan of Top Boy), I think you might already have this one downloaded. Artists like AJ Tracey, Fredo, M Huncho and Little Simz all have tracks on the album so I couldn’t wait to listen and see what it sounds like.

Image credit: filmmusicreporter.com

The first track ‘Riding on E’ (Nafe Smallz) starts off with some atmospheric vocal FX and piano sounds. The beat is subtle alongside the rap as he talks about the area he lives in, fast money and life in a gang but with that eerie piano sound in the background throughout. Fredo’s track ‘Freddy’ comes in with harder base and beat but another light piano-style melody. The delivery of the rap is more aggressive as he chats about trust, money and luxury items. ‘Hard To Believe’ (Headie One) has a smooth warm wave FX background and then bassline that enters when he starts rapping. The flow here is crazy with the warped bass and subtle beat as he mentions “London town” and thinks back to a time growing up struggling, something that is constantly seen in the series. Baka Not Nice and Giggs feature on ‘My Town’ which has a magical background chime alongside a HARD beat and in your face vocal delivery. It has a haunting feel to it for sure with an element of danger but also mystery.      

‘One Summer’ (M Huncho) is a GOOD song. The flow and the production to this one is niceeee and I love the melody in the background with the brass style instruments. This one has something new but something super old school about it. ‘Overseer’ (Youngs Teflon) has a smooth RnB instrumental opening and then the Hip-Hop beat comes in which sounded very USA actually. If it wasn’t for the accent, I would think he was an American artist. Dave’s tune ‘Professor X’ was already being talked about on Twitter. The production is clean, it’s got hard beats and the backing music is powerful. It fits with the sound of this album which always has some sort of creepy, haunting backing. ‘100 Thoughts’ (SL) has a decent flow and nice bassline with catchy chorus but I wasn’t crazy about it. Popcaan and Quada’s tune ‘Billions’ is one that will make you MOVE. Popcaan is known for being “genre-bending” with some RnB, Reggae and Afrobeat.

As a fan of AJ Tracey’s music so far, I was keen to hear ‘Elastic’. It didn’t disappoint. It had his quick rap style, a hard clean beat and softer, subtle melody in the background with some vocal FX. I don’t know where he manages to take a moment to breathe to be honest. ‘Listen’ (Ghetts) opens with some dramatic, distorted build up into a hard beat and repetitive background bass. It’s powerful and has all the attack needed for a series like this. ‘Belly of the Beast’ (Avelino) has another haunting backing with a strong beat. The flow here is also very neat and I like the sound change from verse to verse because it gives it that edge and variety. This one is about wanting to get rich and running out of luck.

I had heard Little Simz’s ‘Venom’ before and thought it was amazing and WOW does she give the male rappers a run for their money. The strings, the composition, the rapping, the pace….it’s intense as fuck. You have to appreciate the level here. ‘Feeling It’ (teeway) has a real UK Rap sound and it’s a chill tune. I liked the background piano and beat that reminded me of the drum used for NSG’s ‘Options’. Nafe Smallz features once more with his song ‘8 Missed Calls’ which I really liked. The piano and rap delivery give it a melancholic and nostalgic feel but the beat is chill and clean. I feel like this one has more of a story and again, I can see how this is inspired by Top Boy. Dave’s other song ‘God’s Eye’ has been talked about a lot online and I see why. The opening is full on cinematic Jazz. The beat comes in slowly as he raps with the jazz and a echoing percussion in the background. The vocal effects in this are gorgeously poignant and a girl has to love a good batman reference. I was close to putting this one as my favourite because of the lyrics and composition.

And finally, the man himself. Drake features with a bonus track ‘Behind Barz’ which starts off with a beautiful piece of echoing piano. Then all of a sudden a warped bassline comes in with some screechy vocals. Drake definitely adopts a UK Rap style here not only with lyrics but with delivery too. I was surprised he went in this direction but it’s not bad at all.  

This album is good for a drive or just listening to it casually. If you’re a fan of UK Rap then it’s perfect and full of talent you’ll recognise.