Headie One – The One Two

The rise of Headie One has been absurdly sudden in the general sense of how long it tends to take a British MC to become a potential star. One thinks about how the rise of Giggs took several years for him to go from mixtape rapper to commercial presence, or how so many have had to go through several different musical incarnations (sometimes inside rap, sometimes beyond) in order to make themselves respected for their craft. Whereas in the relative span of a year, we’ve started to see Headie One reap the rewards of a momentous and sudden rise. It made sense of course, when you look at how singles like “Golden Boot” and “Know Better” were super-effective at cutting through the chaff of the current explosion of Road Rap artists both long-established or young and hungry. Recently, Headie’s managed to release a new record The One Two as another salvo in his assault on the scene to make himself a definitive star in UK Rap. Just how effectively does this mixtape prove the case that Headie One is someone to bank on?

As an alternative to the majority of drill and road rap, one understands how and why Headie One’s rise has been so monumentous. Rap-wise, he feels like a complete package from the jump whose rapid progression has coincided with an overwhelming workrate. You can easily argue that people are invested on his airy flows and casual delivery, or you can claim that the ease with which he can alternate between melodic and traditional approaches as a rapper makes him appealing. But just as well, one has to account for how good Headie’s edged himself forward in all the dimensions of lyricism; be it the clever wordplay of his cryptic slang similes, well-projected imagery or his hard-nosed poignancy. There isn’t simply one key example of Headie’s strengths as he continuously develops himself as a rapper for you to point to, but rather his impressively balanced skillset that few beside him are working themselves into.

Production is paramount to making The One Two as solid a project as it manages to be, and there’s more than a few particular heavy hitters coming out to hold down that end. Zeph Ellis, Shadow On The Beat, M1 On The Beat, Maniac and others have all managed to deliver A+ work here that seamlessly blends into a grayscale ‘cinematic’ vibe that’s been both the saving grace and the albatross to a lot of road rap and especially the drill scene that Headie feels roughly adjacent to (albeit never feeling like a proper participant). However, whereas most can find such production from even the more exemplary beatmakers a bit oppressive, there’s a constant sense of moving forward underneath so much of Headie’s material. Tracks like “Banter On Me” or “Broni” feel particularly effective as singles not only because of the presence of their MC, but in how Headie manages to select cuts that don’t simply batter the listener but seem to skip and skid along without the punishing clatter of a lot of drill-influenced beats.

Of course, Headie is still growing as an artist and is currently still in the developmental phase. For as well-rounded and unique to himself that he’s made his style of records, he admittedly doesn’t have much diversion from his kind of record; or at least he isn’t showcasing that here, and that results in some fatigue over the mixtape’s tail end. A curious notion considering that in his occasional guest appearances next to artists as disparate as Loski or Belly Squad, he still sounds at ease, so experimentation with differing formats or even other genres shouldn’t have been excluded as an option. Stranger still is that the deviations here are entirely ill-fitting for Headie and rather than spruce up The One Two to give it some creativity, it kind of muddies the approach. When the R&B vocals kick in on “Blessings” or Yxng Bane’s auto-tuned distortion slides in on “This Week”, it derails the breakneck pacing of Headie’s propulsion and threatens to take the listener’s experience off into the weeds. That said, given the brevity of the project, there’s certainly a lot more quality material than weaker tunes. One simply hopes that come the next release that he might take a much more liberal approach with what his audience will allow.

Regardless of any detractions, The One Two achieves so many of its goals and then some. Listeners will have plenty of new bangers from Headie One that not only further his star power but speak to his growing craft. As of this moment, he appears to have the summer on lock with this release and may yet still be a candidate for rapper of the year entirely. But from the looks of his incredibly prolific 2018, it’s unlikely that we’ve seen or heard the last from Headie in just this year alone. Now the only question is that after topping his prior successes with this go, can he continue to do it?

Written by /
Published /
July 2
Category /
Album Review