South London rapper and actor Loyle Carner has been receiving plaudits across the board for his thoughtful and disarmingly honest lyrics, making him one of UK hip hop’s most exciting new talents. Still only 21 despite sounding wise beyond his years, Ben Coyle-Larner uses his Loyle Carner monikker to spit bars over spacious beats and live instrument backings, often dealing with emotive matters with a mix of brutal honesty and outstanding sensitivity. Undisputably one of the best wordsmiths to burst onto the scene in the last year, here are five reasons why we’re tipping Loyle Carner as one to watch in the coming months.
Florence [Ft. Kwes]
Featuring vocals from talented London producer Kwes, this sparsely backed track employs a bare bones beat, slow, deep piano chords and Loyle’s sweet musings on interacting with the younger sister that he’d always wanted. Fantastically warm lyrics show the sensitive side of the young wordsmith, who has also shown off his brotherly traits by setting up a cooking school for young kids with ADHD.
Another heartfelt passage as the young rapper presents a tribute to his late father, Steven Vengeance, through a track named after Man United legend Eric Cantona, his dad’s hero. Emotional, poignant and overwhelmingly personal, Loyle deals with the sad content with elegance and a strong sense of perspective, leaving it on a hopeful note with the line “forget a heathen… I need something to believe in”.
Ain’t Nothing Changed
The video kicks off with another reference to Cantona, perhaps again alluding to the shockwaves left by his father’s passing, and the track deals with the inner city stresses of an ambitious youth trying to make it in the real world. A sax that teases for a while before unleashing its soulful hum would have stolen the show were it not for the stunning lyricism that has become a trend in Carner’s tracks.
Money’s on the mind again but it’s less a lamentation this time and more a statement of intent; music’s the aim of the game in this one as Carner and Rebel Kleff take time out to assert their arrival. There’s a lot of talent on show over the unobtrusive beats and scuzzy guitars, but whilst they’re certainly not short of the arrogance necessary to make it in rap circles, these two don’t seem interested in the excessive braggadocio that often accompanies it.
Stars & Shards
The guitar on this one is a real treat, riffing lazily through staccato strums as Ben recounts the decline of a small-time drug dealer. Clever words throughout make this one an engaging listen, with lines like “Cutting more lines than disabled kids up in Thorpe Park” providing a side of dark humour that you’ll feel a bit guilty for laughing at.
FAO UK hip hop heads: Loyle Carner can be caught live in Sheffield, Birmingham and Bristol in October, with tickets already on sale.
Words by Andrew Kemp
Photo courtesy of Loyle Carner