One of the features of grime’s newfound commercial and critical attention is its initial sounds slowly shifting from radical to clichéd, as well as the stylistic parameters of the genre expanding as its proponents toy with new ideas.
Hailing from Brockley, Novelist’s self-released, self-produced debut album Novelist Guy is what could be described as grime-adjacent, utilising its cold aesthetic while also making use of elements sourced from a broader palette.
Novelist’s lyrics are cool and authoritative for the most part, dealing with issues like street life (Gangster), good times (Better Way) and his own determination (Whole 9 Yards). The hooks are often repetitive which is a gift and a curse, as it works to great effect on tracks like Afro Pick – “yo, afro pick in my hair / look but I don’t recommend you stare” – but quickly leaves Smiles sounding monotonous.
Album highlight Stop Killing The Mandem goes full 2002 Dizzee Rascal with distorted kickdrums, claps, hisses, squelches and other samples flying around fiery lyrics attacking police brutality and gang violence, while “Man Better Jump” is a very fun foray into 4×4 and bassline vibes.
Not everything is as essential: “Wait Wait Wait” feels a bit redundant alongside the lead single and far better track Nov Wait Stop Wait, and the tracks that Start and End the album both have the same stilted, awkward production. That being said, Novelist Guy remains a very promising debut from a young artist who has already placed himself at the forefront of grime’s equally promising future.