Hip-hop is full of sentimental streaks running a mile wide. A great majority of rappers miss their opportunity to build up a bittersweet creation myth, instead focusing on their hard-knock lives and earning street cred. As you may imagine, there’s no shortage of rappers who love their mums. Up-and-coming artist Loyle Carner (formally Ben Coyle-Larner) exports these old tendencies to a remarkable new place. He is the sort of rapper you could take round to your nan’s. Chances are, she may chastise him for his seemingly habitual effing, but she’d be more than happy to feed him up on ham rolls and Battenberg.
Loyle Carner’s stepdad recorded an album before he passed away and never told anyone about it, “‘we found it, and it was beautiful, Yesterday’s Gone’ was my favourite track off of it, it’s like he’s chatting to me again. I had it on my iPod forever, but when I finally listened back I thought ‘this is the one for me’. It meant a lot, so it made sense,” Loyle revealed in the interview with Dork.
Photography Laura Coulson
On Loyle’s ‘Yesterday’s Gone‘ album, UK rap’s trademark arrogance is switched with unabashed sensitivity and transparent honesty along with serious emotional openness. The album showcases humble, homely, heartfelt hip-hop, tender, domesticated, kitchen-sink rap. This is a music as catharsis, with much of the sonically laid-back album revolving around his family, loss (stepfather) and friendship, over lived-in J Dilla and Tribe Called Quest-worthy beats curated by Rebel Keef. It must be the first time for a rapper to be called “you shmoo” by his mum on his debut, I find kinship in the relationship with our mothers, and this is one of Loyle’s hidden purposes, to find resemblance in struggle, pain, doubt, love and unity through his music. The opening of The Isle of Arran showcases glorious gospel choir and a pugnacious crisis of faith in father figures. The buoyant bass and hand claps have been borrowed from SCI Youth Choir’s “The Lord Will Make A Way“, yet they can’t camouflage the conspicuous isolation (‘He was nowhere to be seen when I was bleeding‘) and lost ‘souls who need redeeming from the demons‘.
He then goes back to the basics, with homespun production which includes crackles, coughs and ‘one-two‘ preceding tracks. “No CD” even includes an electric guitar and the whole song tells of impoverished musical desire and infatuation. Even when sampling the soporific 70s jazzy sax of Piero Umiliani on “Ain’t Nothing Changed”, layered over the somniferous boom bap, Carner’s lyrics seethe with the apprehension of adulthood, envisaging himself ‘somewhere between the struggle and the strain’ in later life.
All in all, the chintzy misogynistic swagger that has mangled rap for decades, “Florence” feels redemptive, devotedly imagining the sister he never had and the stories they never shared. Over mollifying piano, he avouches to be her ‘listener’ and ‘shelter her from the snitches‘. Loyle continues to tell stories, this time with the funked-up guitar groove of “Stars and Shards” he introduces Sonny to us – the loser who lacks maturity, manipulating women, selling drugs and winding up people in the park, mistreating womankind being the main issue that bothers Carner. He unearths the erroneous perspective on masculinity.
Loyle’s ferocious poetry makes this album one hell of a Scooby Doo Sandwich of lyrics. “+44” is a short tale of miscommunication, (‘You don’t mean what you said in that text/ And you don’t mean what you’re telling her next’). Replete with self-deprecating, wounded, post-millennial vulnerability, Loyle Carner may not fix this broken world, or calm his distraught mind with one album, however he easily voices the issue surrounding the misconception of masculinity, responsibility, decency and humanity. Boys, respect your mothers and your girlfriends as you may ‘[have] an arrogant view til it happened to you‘. Appreciate every moment you share with the astonishing person closest to you.