I’ve been meaning to properly cover some British hip-hop on my blog, and London rapper Remi’s presents a perfect opportunity for that. His latest project KING OF DA UNDERGROUND 2.0 WINTER SOULJUH, almost half of the production on which is by underground legend Bloodline Genesis, echoes with all the things that make hip-hop from my side of the pond so interesting. ‘For My Enemies’ is the perfect opener as its icy, Bloodline-helmed soundscape builds indelible tension that Remi aka Young Souljuh splits wide open. Beginning with a steady, eloquently delivered hook, the rapper soon transforms his flow into a blistering whirlwind, scorching the quiet menace of the Bloodline beat.
But while this sound may be somewhat familiar to American audiences, the approach taken on ‘Pulse’ essentially eschews any such approach. Here, Remi adopts the popular sounds of British music, turning them into a short, infectious dance-flavoured number. This theme continues on ‘Bad Em Up’, where pitch-shifted vocals skip over the beat with a grime-influenced flow. Although he’s obviously aware of the sounds of the underground present in the USA, this tape makes zero concessions for these audiences. As such; London slang flies incessantly throughout this tape, while the production choices (including grime icon Novelist) display an unwavering allegiance to his home city.
The swaying vibrating of ‘Over The Top’ has one of my favourite rap performances on the tape, Remi’s bark is truly vicious here. After this joint fades out, the tape focuses much more heavily on Bloodline’s production, and of these, ‘See Me Walkin’ is the most apocalyptically effective. Finally, the tape ends with a scathing diss track, keeping in tune with grime culture’s affinity for earth-shattering beefs.
Recently, Remi also dropped a visual for an older track, ‘Akira’ (off of last year’s In Paradise Fashion May Have No Use). The song’s creepy, softly but menacing sang lead vocal is visually adapted by shadowy shots of the rapper lurking in darkness, illuminated only by the blinding lights of London’s immense skyline. The locations are chosen carefully, as the rapper is able to pose dead-eyed and emotionless in front of various landmarks key to the identity of his city. In this way, the video is just as essential to understanding the rapper’s musical approach as his melding of the UK’s traditionalist grime scene with the grim cyber-darkness of producers both home-grown and international.