LD – The Masked One

For many of the fans of 67, one of the first faces (or lack thereof) that instantly springs to one’s mind is none other than LD. One of the main rappers in the group, the man in the iron mask instantly stood out visually for fans over the years thanks to both his hidden identity and his booming baritone voice. Since his breakout smash, the infamous “Live Corn” freestyle, LD’s managed to become more than just a figurehead MC for his group, but an inarguable pioneer of the UK Drill style along with the rest of his Brixton Hill crew. Reasonably, that’s often resulted in a greater demand for LD by himself beyond the occasional guest appearances or loose solo records, resulting in a solo full-length tape entitled The Masked One. Boasting production from Show N Prove as well as his frequent collaborator Carns Hill, the illusive figure finds himself moving further and further into the spotlight. The question is, without the group as a consistent foil, does LD still stand out?

Sonically, the tape itself is an interesting development for one of the figureheads of UK Drill in that cautiously, LD does appear to be easing away from the hallmarks of the sound while still an adamant representative. Despite sounding comparatively retiring on this year’s The 6ix, The Masked One finds LD still capable of being as boisterous and aggressive as he ever was before on previous outings, without losing a step. Yet for all the many drill cuts that feel just as booming and menacing as ever, the obvious point of interest is LD’s moving into more straightforward rap territory. Granted, the group’s Mura Masa Remix and LD’s own remix of Alicia Harley’s “Gold” were preparation for the notion that the group and their leader were considering steps that feel antithetical for an average drill fan’s expectations. Still, one is bound to be surprised by the tracks “So Fly” and “Baddest”, in which Young Adz and Tyy of Bellysquad respectively come in to provide smooth hooks over 90s NYC style beats one would expect on an early Jay-Z or Ma$e album. To his credit, LD doesn’t sound out of place on the style by any stretch of the imagination, and feels more proper than your average MC’s desperate turn to afroswing in the wake of drill’s media blow-back.

As aforementioned, Show N Prove and Carns Hill handle a majority of the production decisions, and the lack of conflicting elements on the production side serve as a foundation for the album’s strength in diversity. The meat of the album is your standard drill production that wavers from the weirder and more evocative takes that Carns’ has been working so hard in refining over the course of the last year, and a more straightforward ‘orchestral’ sound by Show N Prove. On every count, you can rely on solid production that isn’t necessarily reinventing the wheel with drill, but doing it’s best to find LD delivering inspired verses, which he does rather well. Whether it’s the tape’s closer with the mournful flute samples on “Greaze” or the spritely pitched up strings on the Dizzee Rascal collaboration “Stepped In”, you have material that does it’s job and does it’s job well in supporting the star of the show.

LD’s performances are only aided and abetted by his newfound confidence as a solo mic man, a role he appears to be more than willing to uphold. On the tape’s 8 tracks, only 3 are posse cuts featuring the greater 67 Camp, and besides them only Dizzee shows up for a guest verse. That other half also features hooks from Adz, Tyy and Tiggs da Author to compliment LD’s blunt rhyming style with floating hooks, to which he thrives at the opportunity to do all the heavy lifting by himself. It appears that in lieu of 67’s success, now LD’s new goal is to prove himself away from the support of a group, and on The Masked One he seems very secure and firm-footed. Despite the moves away from your traditional drill output, the entire tape bears no errors of judgment and suggests that should more solo projects emerge from LD, he’d be more than capable of handling business all by himself (though hopefully not at the expense of the continued success of the group).

Despite it being his first official solo outing after forming 67, it’s clear that LD is more than capable of remaining a solo rap star should he need to be. The Masked One, while short, is a solid release from one of UK Drill’s first and foremost, and shows that in spite of the genre’s changing tides, he still remains ahead of the pack. His debut tape hints at curious paths for LD’s future career by providing more of what fans have come to expect from him along with some provocative curveballs. While The 6ix was most certainly a triumph for the group, The Masked One is a victory for him personally to establish his own particular strengths the way fellow member Dimzy’s Dim The Lights seems on track to do additionally. Hard to say what the future will hold for the group and for LD in particular, but it seems fair to say he’s more than prepared for it.

Written by /
Published /
September 9
Category /
Album Review