Within the inventive doldrums following UK drill’s ascent to the mainstream, that type’s musical forebear, highway rap—the cruddy sound spearheaded by Giggs and co. again within the early 2000s—is getting some shine, with a brand new era of rappers swapping VHS grit for VVS glint. Chief among the many reemergent scene’s new abilities is North Londoner Clavish, whose chilly precision and pugilistic wordplay have gained him a cult fan base amongst each growing older UK rap followers and newer followers discovering a style for slower beats and better introspection than pop-leaning drill can provide.
Clavish first captured imaginations again in 2018 with a 40-second clip of a louche freestyle delivered from the again seat of a hatchback; he adopted up with an eight-minute monologue of sharp, guarded storytelling. Since then, he’s saved his output to a trickle, utilizing the shortage of his releases to intensify their affect. His character remembers The Wire’s Marlo Stanfield, sharing the clean-cut antagonist’s combination of sinister, sunken-eyed detachment and bristling ambition. A lazy observer would possibly name his demeanor effortlessly cool (which, sure, it kind of is); however the extra studied critique is that paradox is central to virtually every little thing Clavish does.
Clavish is witty—“The streets aren’t for everybody, that’s why they made the curbs,” affords “No Interview”—but unswervingly humorless, too. He cuts music checks to free himself from a road life-style he holds in contempt, however, like Pacino within the Godfather, without end flirts with being pulled again in. He appears to relish the apparent contradiction of rapping immaculately for minutes on finish whereas reiterating that he’s not making an attempt or doesn’t take care of recognition. “This mixtape’s only for everybody to know I am arduous/Do not care about being within the charts,” he sighs on breezy spotlight “That’s Foolish,” as if ready to be examined on his claims. It’s puckish, and engaging. Nonetheless, the unignorable inconsistency on the coronary heart of Rap Recreation Terrible is that regardless of his aloof, exacting type, Clavish has turned in a debut album that’s, inexplicably, 28 tracks lengthy. Stretched out like this, the few holes in his sport—particularly a dearth of tales that stretch past his instant North London environs, and a restricted number of flows—are vulnerable to crowding out his exhibits of real excellence.
Rap Recreation Terrible checks a full NC-17 bingo card of medication, intercourse, and violence, all peppered, like a film premiere’s red-carpet backdrop, with an countless spool of designer model names. “Once I’m upset I fly Sloane Avenue, Louis Vuitton, and Prada,” he spits on the midnight glide of “1 Extra Than 6.” However splashing money can solely provide a lot succor, which leads him to pleasures of a extra carnal sort; jewels and intimate violence present the remainder. His lyrics, for probably the most half unanchored from any discernible choruses, flit between these matters in a kaleidoscopic melee each entrancing and unsettling, conjuring patterns from shapes that merely shouldn’t match. It’s an expertise to gorge on.
That’s, till it’s not. The uniformity of every track’s contents, and the inevitable return to every acquainted theme—fucking, preventing, flexing—finally ends up spotlighting the place Clavish hits and the place he misses: He sounds untouchable as he glides a hopscotch circulate over resort lounge piano on “That’s Foolish,” however then he stutters on the inapposite “Eleanor Rigby”/“Thong Tune” strings of “Traumatised.” The refrain on “I Instructed You So” sounds half-baked, however on “FR” he’s hovering. The intro and outro tracks provide narrative bones to select over, together with glimpses of the person behind the designer clothes; on “22 Missed Calls,” he experiments with extra conceptual track constructions, with promising outcomes—however moments like these threat being misplaced amid a wash of sameness.
Just like the clip that kickstarted Clavish’s profession, Rap Recreation Terrible leaves you wanting extra—simply not when it comes to amount. There’s an album’s price of tracks right here that put Clavish head and shoulders above his friends, which solely makes the opposite album’s price of misfires extra disappointing for his or her inclusion. What you need extra of, actually, is what you observed Clavish may do, not what you already know he can.