Bugzy Malone is an MC I have a lot of time for.
A self-made man with sights aimed firmly towards the stratosphere, using music to keep his nose clean. It’s a story we hear a lot on Hip-Hop and Grime records, but in practice relatively little in an embarrassingly poseur-oriented industry.
Bugzy Malone‘s breakthrough release was 2015’s ‘Walk With Me’, although he really defined his sound with 2016’s ‘Facing Time’. The soulful, weighty production paired with powerful storytelling saw tracks like ‘Beauty & The Beast’ resonating with international audiences – a feat given the Grime movement is a definitively British one. The songs didn’t make any concessions, either; Bugzy’s music is Manchester through and through, a breath of Northern fresh air into a scene in danger of stagnating or going the same way as “above-ground” American hip-hop. That is, amalgamated into the crass arsenal of manufactured Pop.
I digress. After five mixtapes, three EPs and countless singles and features then, 2018 is the year we finally get the much-lauded debut album. ‘B. Inspired’ had been teased on Twitter for months before finally landing with a bang. “So, does it stand up?” I hear you cry. Kind of. Much more than that verse on Dizzee Rascal‘s ‘Ghost’, at least.
There’s nothing inherently bad or wrong about the record as a whole. The lyrics are, to an extent, punchy as ever, and a selection of well-managed and -placed features (most notably Rag’n’Bone Man‘s appearance on ‘Run’) keeps a play-through feeling diverse and fresh. The production doesn’t feel as dark as I’d like, however, and the singles feel glaringly geared towards chart placement, rather than a representation of the release as a whole to gel it together. You could pick them out blind on the first listen.
I’m not sure if I’m being picky simply because I clicked so much with the ‘Facing Time’ EP and the bar was set especially high, but to stick a foot down I’d say ‘B. Inspired’ simply doesn’t quite capture that level of emotive clarity. Tracks like ‘Die By The Gun’ are a bit of salvation, but realistically there’s only so many times you can tell the same stories before they start losing impact.
It’s not uninspired, and I’m expecting a lot of heads to disagree with my feelings on the instrumental treatments coming across as slightly jaded, but there’s definitely been a big step taken in the direction of commercial accessibility. That doesn’t quite inspire me.