Words by: Dwayne Wilks
We’ve reached the halfway point of the year and it’s easy to forget just how much music has come out, so now is the perfect time to revisit 5 of the best projects released so far in 2021.
It may feel as if we’ve had less output from our favourite UK artists so far in 2021, but its the furthest thing from the truth. Amidst the gloom and grey, this year has gifted us a number of bright spots from artists occupying spaces in Rap, R&B and beyond. Here are 5 of the best projects we’ve been served with as we move into the second half of the year.
GHETTS – CONFLICT OF INTEREST
A habitual voyager of the road less travelled, Ghetts’ third studio album, Conflict Of Interest, was an affirmation of the value in refusing to compromise. The toil and turbulence that the East London veteran has endured throughout his career led to a heightened skillset and elevated perspective put on elaborate display on the project.
From a lyrical standpoint, Ghetts performs at a level that frankly, barely anyone else can dream of matching. On a conceptual front, he welds together the three voices of Ghetto, Ghetts and J. Clarke (the respective past and present iterations of his artistic being, and the man he is when stripped back of everything extracurricular) to deliver his vision in one harmonic tone. If we’re speaking strictly musicality, the in-house approach to the production made for a sound that was varied and captivating but still cohesive, providing the perfect foundation for Ghetts’ wizardry. Conflict of Interest dropped in February, but there’s no doubt that future listens will continue to offer new layers of depth to the project.
ARLO PARKS – COLLAPSED IN SUNBEAMS
Collapsed In Sunbeams, the debut album by London’s Arlo Parks is 40 minutes of soothing, conversational, confessional bliss. The at times observational, always candid songwriting paints pictures with delicate strokes. Whether it speaks from the perspective of a bystander watching an argument between a couple or the response to a loved one’s call for help, Parks’ easy and airy tone never betrays the honesty of her lyrics. Her influences from the realm of classic Britpop and Indie are clear and obvious from the album’s production.
The form her songs writing takes, and Parks’ sings in an accent that is quintessentially London. Yet her sound is anything but dated, with the range of subject matter (body image struggles, to battles with mental health and sexuality) perfectly fitting with the fact that she is only 20 years old. The album has struck such a chord with fans and critics that she has sold out tours scheduled nationally and internationally, and even helped secure her a BRIT award.
FREDO – MONEY CAN’T BUY HAPPINESS
With the help of the project’s executive producer and frequent collaborator Dave, Fredo released Money Can’t Buy Happiness, his finely crafted sophomore album. His second album finds Fredo more open and revealing than we’ve heard him before. Accompanying the flexing that he’s become renowned for are ruminations about his family and the events that have led him to this point.
The opener sets the tone; the reflection found in ‘Biggest Mistake’ is spread throughout the project, perhaps most notably in the track, ‘Aunt’s Place’. Amidst the introspection, Fredo still provides his patented confidence and bravado as expected. The project manages to strike the right balance between machismo and maturity, making the project a very compelling listen. The features, which include Summer Walker, Young Adz and a verse from the late Pop Smoke, add a welcome level of variation to the body of work without pulling focus away from Fredo and his story.
DIGGA D – MADE IN THE PYREX
Digga D’s troubles legal troubles are well documented and well known; there’s even a BBC documentary exploring said legal issues. To have dropped arguably the summer anthem of 2020 with so much else going on however is nothing short of impressive. ‘Woi’ wasn’t enjoyed as it ought to; it’s the type of hit that would have sent club-goers into a frenzy and would have been blaring from several cars stuck in the same traffic jam.
On Made In The Pyrex, Digga’s second project it finds a home and slots in ever so comfortably, surrounded by tracks that brim with charisma and smack of a spare-no-blushes, up-to-no-good attitude. Other standouts include ‘My Brucky’ a song that 50 Cent would have made if he were a driller from London, and West London link-up ‘Bringing It Back’, in which Digga and AJ Tracey trade top-class bars at a relentless pace.
JVCK JAMES – JOYRIDE EP
For all of those that love classic R&B, Jvck James’ Joyride EP was a Godsend. Sweet and sultry vocals span the 16-minute running time, with its generally up-tempo bounce making it seem all the shorter. In the spirit of the adage “less is more”, James exhibits exactly what he is about in the 6 tracks of the project. Tracks like lead single ‘No Drama’, manage to hit the sweet spot at which casual music fans and R&B purists alike can enjoy, an achievement further displayed by highlight ‘Joyride (andale)’ which feels like just that: a perfect choice to soundtrack a carefree late-night drive.