It’s been over three years since Peckham rapper Giggs, otherwise known as Hollowman – or Nathan Thompson, if you are being really formal – released his critically-acclaimed second album, Let Em Ave It. The record consolidated his status as one of the brightest prospects on the UK rap scene, but as has always been the way during his career, Giggs’ canny knack of getting in trouble with the authorities – whether warranted or not – has halted his transition into the mainstream.
Just last year Giggs’ was acquitted of charges for possessing a gun, which was discovered by police in a car he was a passenger in during a search in February. Despite having no knowledge of the weapon, his previous record – which included a two-year prison sentence in 2003 for possession of a firearm – undoubtedly counted against him, but he was found not guilty when the case went to trial.
His reputation has continued to affect the promotion of his third album, too, with his scheduled gig at London’s Under The Bridge venue in October cancelled on the request of the authorities. However, rather than get frustrated at the barriers constantly being erected in his path, Giggs has done what he does best, and channeled his experiences into new album, When Will It Stop, which sees him take a philosophical outlook on his brushes with the law.
“Possession with intent, I got tried for that/ to get my life back, I had to go to trial for that/ I had to wait a little while for that/ I was house block four where them lifers at,” he raps on Coming For Me, with his unmistakably deep vocal. The track is classic Giggs, going in hard and putting into words his paranoia about the authorities. Yet, while When Will It Stop doesn’t hold back, he is also far more reflective than ever before.
Lead single, the Mark Ronson-produced (Is It Gangsta?) Yes Yes Yes, follows on from Look What The Cat Dragged In on Let Em Ave It, with Giggs demonstrating just how catchy he can be when he loosens up. “Chillin’ on Bond Street, I think I gone west now/ got a not guilty, I’m feeling so blessed now,” he raps, capturing his newfound perspective on life, while also delivering some biting lyricism.
It’s followed by the equally melodic Breathe, where Giggs changes up his flow once more – favouring a more relaxed, melancholic style – while the progression from his previous mixtapes becomes even more noticeable on Play It Loud. The track features a surprise cameo from Ed Sheeran, but while it is clearly aimed at a more mainstream audience, it is done so in a way that doesn’t compromise Giggs’ gritty subject matter.
Elsewhere, other highlights include What It Gets Like, with its stuttering beat and seamless verse from American rapper Styles P, and the abrasive Eaaaaazy, which sees him return to the more destructive formula that he made his name with. That said, the album is not without fault, with What Niggas Want and Best Pussy both missing the mark, but even the weaker moments are remarkably consistent – something unable to be said about his earlier work.
Giggs may have gone through a number of trials and tribulations - both literally and figuratively - during the time that has elapsed since his second album, but it seems to have done him and his music wonders. The ability has always been there, it was just a question of him being able to find a balance between his aggressive wordplay and a more accessible style. When Will It Stop succeeds in doing just that, and the result is a record that should see him placed among the UK’s rap elite.