A brave, honest portrayal of social consciousness.
21-year-old South Londoner Novelist (or Kojo Kankam as his passport dictates) has self-released his debut album Novelist Guy; an authoritative expression of grime culture.
The Lewisham MC and ex-apprentice at pirate radio stations across London has brought his collective experiences together to create a politically-charged debut album. As an avid Labour supporter, Novelist
is wildly outspoken and unafraid to show his face at public protests in support of Black Lives Matter and Jeremy Corbyn. He is arguably one of grime’s fiercest and freshest artists, and one of only a handful self-releasing a full studio album in his early 20s.
The album opens with a clunky piano tune, which quickly falls into Novelist’s signature knocking lyrics, repeated over and over like a sermon: “I only wanna live the honesty ting,”. ‘Start’ is a positively resilient opener which sets the tone and the social message for the rest of the album.
‘Dot Dot Dot’ in itself feels oxymoronic; combining quick-fire, cyclical lyrics with a tinny, gradual bassline which only seems to reach its crux point on proceeding track ‘Gangster’. The tone of the album takes a heavier turn here; Novelist accentuates his South London accent as he spits quotable bars, “Gangster, gangster, gangster / All we know is / Gangster, gangster, gangster / All we do is / Gangster, gangster, gangster”.
‘Afro Pick’ is a standout track and a single in its own right. The production level is sky high and boasts a thick bassline which carries Novelist’s mantra: “Music, drugs, cars, girls, that’s for the films,”. The track is nuanced with subtle persuasions to chase emotional peace rather than financial prowess.
‘Stop Killing The Mandem’, takes its name after a viral placard Novelist held during a Black Lives Matter march in July 2016. It’s another firecracker on this album, with punchy beats underlining a socially and politically-empowering audio sample. Politics aside, the track has an archetypal grime sound, with an added flare from the versatile newbie.
Taking it up another notch, ‘Whole 9 Yards’ touches on elements of classic grime tracks with class and style. The bolshie (yet comfortingly optimistic) lyrics sit well atop a playful flow, combined with a throbbing bassline, and you’ve got a real anthem.
The album by no means slows down as it reaches its final 4 tracks, instead ‘Man Better Jump’ is seamlessly engineered for the all-night South London house party. It feels relentless, authentic to its roots, yet bathed with a cool wash of newness, that we know puts Novelist at the forefront of the game.
Almost four years on from his first EP, Novelist has created an album with a genuine, expressive and localised sound; it is a journey through the ages of UK grime culture, from start to finish. His political lyricism makes a personal and emotional statement, all the while acting as a voice for those lacking a platform to speak.
Novelist Guy is a debut album bound to make a lot of noise. It has carved its own, vocal style not dissimilar to the likes of Dizzee Rascal or Wiley, balanced by thumping bass lines, repetitive bars, and a boyish charm flowing through each lyric. It is a refreshing 15-track production, emphasising Novelist’s commitment to the genre and its longstanding listeners.