To be honest, I didn't have high hopes for this album. 'Traktor' is an accessible, bass heavy track that sent Wretch into the mainstream, peaking at number 5 on the singles chart. The next two singles did even better, 'Unorthodox' reaching number 2 while 'Don't Go' earned the Tottenham born rapper his first number 1. Despite the popularity of the tracks, I was underwhelmed by both. 'Unorthodox' should be applauded for the bold Stone Roses sample, but the experiment doesn't quite come off. 'Don't Go' is a dreary affair, the inexplicable popularity can only be attributed to Josh Kurma's emotional hook. Only liking one out of the three singles did not bode well, but listening to the whole album turned out to be a pleasant surprise.
'Black and White' is the first track, a passable introduction to the album. 'Never Be Me' kicks the project into gear, as Wretch looks back as his troubled days as a youth. Rhymes tinged with regret become a theme throughout the album, proving to be a refreshing, mature approach from the British rapper. 'Let Yourself Go' documents how the neighborhood youth looked up to the local drug dealer. The track becomes a cautionary tale, however: 'Man, I swear he had a legacy/ His street name straight legendary/ Now he sitting in jail telling this same story like I wonder if they remember me?'
'Forgiveness' is the standout song on the LP. Etta Bond uses her voice to heartbreaking effect on the chorus while Wretch lays bare his deepest regrets: 'Amazed I'm still breathing/ Every other shot I feel my insides bleeding/ Grandad turning in his grave/ Cos' I promised I would be there for my Gran when she grieving.'
On a less introspective note, fans of 'Traktor' will enjoy 'Sane's the New Mad'. The two tracks use similar thumping instrumentals to provide welcome breaks from the serious nature of the album. 'Long Way Home' is an interesting take on walking home sober on a night out as Wretch wryly observes the ridiculous drunken behaviour of his peers while 'Anniversary (Fall in Love)' is a sincere, heartfelt love letter to his girlfriend.
The high standard dips on certain songs. 'Please Don't Let Me Go' is soppy and unnecessary, and 'Hush Little Baby' sounds a little too pop oriented to fit well with the rest of the collection. The aforementioned 'Don't Go' plods along, making for a sombre, downbeat album closer.
Track by Track:
- Black and White (6/10)
- Never Be Me Feat. Angel (7/10)
- Traktor Feat. L (8/10)
- Please Don't Let Me Go (5/10)
- Unorthodox Feat. Example (6/10)
- I'm Not The Man Feat. Angel & Chipmunk (7/10)
- Anniversary Feat. Alex Mills (7/10)
- Sane's The New Mad (8/10)
- Forgiveness Feat. Etta Bond (9/10)
- Long Way Home Feat. Daley (7/10)
- Let Yourself Go (8/10)
- Don't Be Afraid Feat. Delilah (7/10)
- Hush Little Baby Feat. Ed Sheeran (6/10)
- Don't Go Feat. Josh Kumra (5/10)
I was very surprised at the general standard and quality of the album. The abundance of smart, introspective tracks shows that Wretch has bags of talent and potential that were not necessarily shown on his popular singles. A welcome addition to British rap royalty.