wed 07/12/2022

Album: Loyle Carner - Hugo | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Loyle Carner - Hugo

Album: Loyle Carner - Hugo

A moving, absorbing, but perhaps not thrilling UK rap coming-of-age album

You’ll want to love Loyle Carner. There’s so much about what he gives and how he delivers it that’s disarming, charming, brilliant even. His lyrics across this album are very obviously from the heart and took real courage to hammer into shape. He talks about his sense of self as he’s struggled to form it in the battlegrounds of race, class, masculinity and nationality, in clear and direct language that leaves you in no doubt that he’s telling the truth.

He tells the kind of stories that are all too often completely pushed to the side in UK pop culture by the sellability of the slick brutality of drill and grime. He uses an authentic voice, that young men in the cities, suburbs and small towns of England will recognise as resonant with their own – and hopefully take as a call to solidarity of introspection.

This, his third album should be great given all that, and many of his examinations of coming of age, parenthood, generational schisms and more certainly hit hard in themselves – but, sadly, the music doesn’t back it up. It’s not even that the backing isn’t good – it is. It’s absolutely fine, rock solid, hip hop soul of the old school. It’s the kind of groove that’s worked amazingly for Little Simz’s recent Mercury Prize-winning similarly confessional and self-analytical examinations of a similar search for sense of identity. There’s production here from Madlib, one of that absolute masters of the left field of US hip hop, and Kwes, a veteran UK abstract beat maker. There’s not a single ingredient that’s wrong in and of itself.

But all together it’s not quite there. Where Little Simz found a relationship with producer and musical director Inflo (the mastermind behind SAULT, life and studio partner of Cleo Sol, and lately muse and producer for Adele) that made her last two albums catch alight, spread their wings stylistically and feel essential to the here and now as pieces of music, Carner here feels like he’s doing something that's been done before. Somehow, though his voice and words are of the now, the sound doesn't feel like it belongs to him. It’s fine, his lyrics are often moving, it will speak to a good sized audience, it’s an OK showcase for Carner’s talent. However, it feels like he’s capable of much more musically, and in an era of proliferating individualism and innovation in UK hip hop and soundsystem music from the margins to the pop charts – of Space Afrika and Aitch, Loraine James and Kojey Radical to name just a very few – this is not cutting new ground.

@joemuggs

Listen to "Georgetown" from Hugo:

He tells the kind of stories that are completely pushed to the side in UK pop culture by the sellability of the slick brutality of drill and grime

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters