Cadell – L.O.N.D.O.N

With over 15 years of its existence, grime’s greatest mystery and saving grace is its malleability. A musical style that sits at the exact point of conflict between dance music, MC culture (both in rap and dancehall) and the occasional extra bits, grime has never quite managed to maintain a definitive aura of what it’s supposed to be. Try and determine what is or isn’t, and someone almost always seems to come along and send everyone’s sense of perception spinning off into space. In the last few years, the newest ‘wave’ of grime MCs have assisted in revitalizing the scene, yet usually have re-enacted previous approaches already done by producers or MCs from a decade prior, with very few if any taking an approach to help redefine how grime can sound. However this year, grime has appeared to be granted a boon coming from one of its more solitary figures, Cadell, and his newest album entitled LONDON aka Lots Of N***as Don’t Observe Nature.

For those who haven’t heard of Cadell as a name to watch in the press or on the blogs, it’s a scenario that’s on one hand predictable and on the other hand infuriating. While typically known for being the younger brother of one of grime’s founders, the ever beguiling Wiley, Cadell has spent a good part of the decade working hard at making himself one of the most well respected MCs in the scene, but has often been best known for the clashes and sends early on in his career in the minds of the majority of the younger grime generations. What should take more prominence is an already well-established body of work, featuring production from the likes of his brother and other veterans such as Flava D, Splurt Diablo, Kid D, Zomby and Visionist as well as many others. 2016 saw him deliver unquestionably promising material in his Hotline EP and 3 Is The New 6 LP, offering a very particular version of grime that drew from sounds past but additionally from road rap and US hip-hop, especially drill, while never quite resembling the then developing UK Drill Scene. Briefly withdrawing from the scene however resulted in sporadic communiques via singles, before culminating in his newest album.

LONDON is a very unique sort of record for grime, not just in its approach but in the kind of content it delivers. Comparing Cadell to the MCs who serve as contemporaries or peers seems a bit of a stretch due to the severely aseptic yet detailed lyrics that are less concerned with boasting as they are being prescriptive. It wouldn’t be absolutely unfair to maybe hold his very idiosyncratic and contemptuous attitude to the world against the likes of his brother, but at times he manages to resemble Wiley’s nemesis Ghetts or the early works of Dot Rotten. The intensity of details and obsessiveness on songs such as “London” or “Tower Hamlets”, where talk of out-of-towners looking at the city Cadell lives in as inhospitable on one hand while describing the severity of life on the other as both a badge of pride and a warning are a stark contrast from the punchline or tribute obsessions running through the minds of most younger grime MCs that lead to their material failing to have their own voices. Cadell, unlike so much of his generation, has defiantly managed to forge his own unique voice as an MC and in doing so deserves to be recognized not just in contrast with his age mates but even a few of his elders.

Production-wise the record’s definitely allowing for a curious blend of styles ranging from the weightless post-eski style on “Since 2001” or the lo-fi trap sounds of “No Hook”. There’s a versatility that demonstrates for as little as Cadell’s been upheld as one of the best MCs based on some sort of lack of ‘anthems’, he’s become even further determined at demonstrating an absolute mastery of technique and flow whereas more than a few have gotten by with literal Dizzee Rascal karaoke for the sake of pop-stardom. The absolute comfort he has on the darker R&G sounds of “Create a Career”, the sour-off key post-Spartans sound of the aforementioned “Tower Hamlets”, or the almost jungle-tempos of “My Circle” are the kinds of records that push the boundaries of grime that you’d expect the current wave to be making, but few beside Cadell have managed to deliver with as much scrutiny and resources as has been bestowed upon them in the wake of newfound popularity. All the while, there’s a constant sense of urban dread that continuously echoes the spirit of old-school grime with very little overt homages to the past. It can’t be reiterated with enough emphasis that Cadell has demonstrated he not only understands grime, but has the ambition to not just bring it back, but push it into the future rather than simply echoing someone else’s past glories.

Dense lyricism, progressive production and incredible MCing beyond, there’s an absolute consistency to LONDON that should no doubt earn the respect of its listeners. Cadell doesn’t seem interested in crafting records that have the serviceability of ‘going off in a rave’ for a 8 month period or being briefly memorable through the daily update cycles of your favorite content couriers. Instead, he has provided one of the most dense albums in a genre that’s often not known for producing strong projects, that stands up to repeat listens and demonstrates both an accomplished vision of progression and potential for bigger and better things. Given his increasing focus and already impressive output, there’s good reason to believe that this is only the tip of the iceberg rather than the culmination of all his hard work. And if we’re led to believe such, there’s good reason to think that if further albums reach the high points of LONDON, or even go beyond, then Cadell will be more than one of the best in his generation. He’ll be one of the best in grime period.
Words: Maxwell Cavaseno

Written by /
Published /
February 20
Category /
Album Review