I’ve been on a bit of a hip hop thing this past week. My plays have been a nice mix of chilled-out vibes from stalwarts such as MF Doom and Frank Ocean, as well as a few tracks from more under-the-radar acts like British rapper Loyle Carner and producer Tom Misch. It’s been a lovely mix of music to write to.
If you feel like following me down this low-fi hip hop rabbit hole, then please do! As a starting point today, let me introduce you to Mr. Carner and his phenomenal second album, called Not Waving, But Drowning.
I first came across Carner when I was a cocktail bartender and our closing music would alternate between Elton John and some of Carner’s early singles. Since then, he’s released two albums, an EP and a raft of excellent new songs.
Today, I want to share Carner’s “difficult second album” with you as I think it’s the British rapper at his heartfelt best.
Released in 2019, the record comprises intimate love letters to friends and family, poetic interludes and snippets of audio from Carner’s every day life. Halfway through the album you’ll find “Loose Ends”, which features a lovely chorus appearance from fellow Britt, Jorja Smith.
It’s a pretty modest track that’s almost exclusively led by Carner’s reflective lyrics and simple piano lines. While some might see it as cringey when the British rapper wears his heart on his sleeve in this manner, I think it’s excellent.
What’s more, the album follows this heartbreaking song with a poem written and read by Stevie Smith. The poem, which shares the same name as the album, tells the story of a man stuck out at sea whose distressed thrashing is mistaken for waving.
It’s a pretty bleak musical pairing that cuts through the macho image that’s sometimes found in British hip hop and grime as it tries to compete with its American counterparts. So, if you’re feeling emotional this morning, dim the lights and check out Loyle Carner.