BOOOOYYYY, WAS i WRONG….

Ok. A’ight. i was buggin’, i was buggin’. 4 Your Eyez Only is quite tight, actually.

On my current, just-now-as-i-write fourth full listen, i’m feeling like this album picked up right where 2014 Forest Hills Drive left off, sound-wise; steering into more focus on the use of the instruments. And, Cole used his voice well, and in various ways to project his messages way more often this time around. There’s flows on this shit that i’m just now hearing from Cole—and of course the familiar here & there; those who know, know—he might just be introducing us to newer things. A modern version of ‘Simba’ could be on the way—so, i’m more than happy if it’s what we’re getting from now on.

It’s all going to sound like a biased-flip-floppin’-back-to-being-a-fan-who-would-of-course-like-it take on the project, i know. But genuinely, i’ll be the first to admit the album is still far from perfect. However, for the simple fact that this is what Cole, his team, and a bunch of talented musicians could craft, in what i understand, to my knowledge, to be a short space of time (mainly over the summer, according to Elite), i give a bly and applaud the album for being what it is. There is room for improvement, much like his last album… but it really is what it is—a complete project where he’s said what he’s had to say, that, honestly can’t be faulted, since it’s just solely spoken from the heart.

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Nice to know that live instrumentation is back—in the forefront of hip-hop—and now that it is, hopefully it stays; because, to me, the incorporation of it seems really beneficial to the evolution of the music that’s to be put together in the future, and has already been proven to be, as shown in recent compositions (2015—present), and as i spoke on in my thoughts on Black America Again, Common’s twelfth studio album. This “trend”—which really shouldn’t be one, or as i shluldnt be referring to as one, albeit—is the best thing to happen in years, in my opinion; and i stand behind that statement, firmly.

Ari Lennox, you did your thing on “Change”—you star. Glad that Cole gave her the spotlight and let her subtly shine like that, contributing a beautiful light; a ray-of-sunshine for an additional to the song. The song hit me even harder, hearing “that boy was 22,” too—the age that i would turn a day later, following the album’s drop-date. And while on subject, i think that cut not only shows, but actually boasts Cole’s most musical progression the highest degree, and to date—like, really… Electric Lady Studios did you some good, ‘maine. This is also the best mixed-down album from Cole i’ve listened to. So, big up Juro “Mez” Davis. The studying of ‘the loudness war’ aided, complemented and catered to the quality of each second of the LP—so, thank goodness that Cole took heed to the sentiment. It made, again, for a great listening, and only seems to grow on me each in which i listen now, and the rapping over the instrumentals is so smooth, too. Respect to J for sticking to his word on Eyez; aware of his platform and not taking for granted that he has it, but may never again one day. There is no shit for the radio on this one. This ain’t nothin’ for the radio.

“This for the ones that listen to me on some faithful shit. i’m on some thankful shit.”

It’s crazy to think how and that i originally thought this album lacked direction on first listen. Been re-taught a lesson: never judge the music off of a first listen. The more i listen to this effort, i realize he’s finally departing from past sounds, but forever in embrace of past Cole, as much as he continues to move forward—i was silly to think this was the ‘same old’ Cole.

THIS IS THE PART THAT THE STANS SKIYUP!

The unfortunate part about 4YEO—in fact, perhaps thee most sad aspect of the LP—is “Déjà Vu.” Though i could argue it, i have no place to really say whether the track fit [in-with] the clear soundscape carried prominently within the space of the ten tracks. The obvious problem and elephant in the room that exists here—at least to my listening experience, though i’m sure plenty of people who know about TRAPSOUL can relate, would agree and be willing to openly back me up on this one—is that beat.

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The way in which “Swing My Way” was sampled—originally by Boi-1da & Vinylz, not Foreign Teck (no shade, just truth)—on track 3 of the LP (despite being the original and father, if you will, to the succeeding-but-first-leaked-and-heard-of, “Exchange” by Bryson Tiller), was so similar to the latter, that it automatically overshadowed Cole’s track. It’s almost like it wasn’t even given a chance… it had no chance—not one. As soon as the song starts and that beat drops. Damn. The vibe the album began with and would follow up after it was ruined for a moment (for my unliking, that is, anyway).

Guess i can bear the song, whether i select it to play, or if it comes on—it’s not a bad song! But au contraire, my nigga—just as @i_makebeats tweeted the same notion that i’m about to mention… i wish Cole, Boi-1da and Vinylz could have just cooked up another one, because it’s not like they aren’t more than capable of doing that (and probably even in their sleep, too—Cole, you’ll like this one)—even though Cole dropped that duuuttty Pac-esque hook on it (YO! and on “Immortal,” too, which, btw, i can’t wait to hear in the whip—same way as i couldn’t with “A Tale of 2 Citiez.”

The title track “4 Your Eyez Only” stands candidly reminiscent of “Sing About Me, i’m Dying of Thirst.” But also, next to the lyrical style i last remember receiving from Cole on a cut such as “Runaway” on Born Sinner, it reminded me of Nas. Now, the “J. Cole—Nas” comparisons been relentlessly thrown out over the years—it’s common knowledge, and Cole hasn’t exactly shied from or been non-vocal in stating his influences during his career so far; probably not anytime soon either (sans “False Prophets”)—but this time around, it couldn’t be more potent in how he channeled Esco; from the storytelling to the more minimalist beats, allowing the words more room to breathe and for the listeners’ ears to catch onto… i don’t think he’s really done this as consistently since Friday Night Lights, to where it was so noticeable that it was one of his focuses to devote himself to.

This all been said… i really would love to hear what was or is to be done with all those chords and riffs as heard in the documentary released [on TIDAL] by Dreamville, a week before the album. There’s gotta be a place for some of those joints, surely. Hope they find a home that’s accessible to the public… sorta like 2014 FHD, Fayetteville, NC—LOL.

Happy for the fact that i was able to and can now say i’ve gotten past the stupid critical stage of listening i was in on my first hearing of the album straight after i got back from a night out (maybe the clubbing did it to me—just maybe). So yeah—now i can just put the ting on shuffle, enjoy, and resume with learning all of the lyrics off-by-heart. State-the-obvious, why don’t i (, everybody, their Mom & Nan)? The switch (even if it is like a continuation sound wise, although a little more risky) from FHD to 4YEO, can be likened to GKMC to TPAB, i suppose—in the sense that [what K. Dot did with] TPAB might just have been easier on the ears—even though it wasn’t—purely because it was just that musically exquisite that it was hard for a fan of quality music to deny. Cole maybe doesn’t have that quite have that on lock and in his pock’ just yet—he lacks that. Has the ability to pull it out the bag, though—if he can focus on that aspect.

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But what i’m even more happy about… what’s really important here… is that i believe it’s now time, after much speculation, and now that Cole is moving more forward towards a sound where he could easily coexist with Kendrick [Lamar] on, bringing only what i could imagine to be ‘autiful, rewarding results. Oh, and even potential collaborations with the likes of Anderson .Paak (who you should know that i really admire the muzikále work of)—one that i’ve been silently hoping for—and The Internet (i mean, just listen to Steven Lacy’s background vocals AND bass guitar on “Foldin Clothes” (a.k.a. the “St. Tropes” of this joint)—that groove would make late ‘90s D’Angelo & Questlove? super proud with a smile on their faces. Passing with flying colours, mate. J. Cole on jazzy beats, is a fit. Don’t make me have seizures, dawg—please. Like i said, ELS done had that effect on heem. Erykah Badu’s magick was left there in the presence of the premises. Aura all up in deyair.

With 4 Your Eyez Only, Cole now joins the 2016 class of Best Grower LPs, sitting alongside [fellow inductees]: Atrocity Exhibition (Danny Brown), Blank Face LP (ScHoolboy Q), and The Healing Component (Mick Jenkins).

Don’t think Cole has yet fully nailed it, and still is to create that project that is fully focused and not missing a step in the direction towards delivering whatever story or theme that it may be. A lot left to do, but at the same time—not.  Hopefully not for long, at all. Will continue listening of course. Maybe this one was  just him getting it out of his system and next time he’ll get it right as a  whole—Lord Willing. Less weak spots and flaws. Would be a shame for him not to; and to see him walk away with the rest of so much talent not shared with the world, with all that he has to offer.

Still a Cole World 😈🌍😇

Album is available now on Amazon Music, Apple Music/iTunes, Google Play Music, Spotify, and in stores (Best Buy, Target for US | HMV this Friday for UK, as far i know)—aouwlahdat.

// All photos captured by Anthony Supreme, and courtesy of anthony-supreme.tumblr.com

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Day before my Birthday… again

So…

Once again, a brand new J. Cole album has been silently announced, and is upon us, only 8 days from now. Not a word uttered from Jermaine himself. Following yet another late wake up, i got the news earlier on this afternoon, via a message from a comrade of mine on WhatsApp, showing a screenshot from Instagram with a photo of the album cover for 4 Your Eyez Only featured in it.

Now, instantly, i thought: ‘There’s no way he’s dropping his album on 9th December again. Two years after 2014 Forest Hills Drive just seems too good to be true, to me.’ Honestly, i thought that we were being trolled (there was a tweet two days ago by somebody who hacked into ScHoolboy Q’s Twitter, saying that Cole & Kendrick [Lamar] were going to finally drop the joint LP — causing much speculation (for fans especially) yet again. Oh, and his writing looks very similar to whoever’s writing is on the cover for We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (A Tribe Called Quest’s actual last album).

Considering that:

· Cole, for a good three years+ now, has been using ‘z’ on the end of his title tracks (“Rich Niggaz,” “Niggaz Know,” “Lil’ Niggaz,” “Wet Dreams,” “A Tale of 2 Citiez,” “No Role Modelz,” “Love Yourz”), the titling for this LP didn’t really come as a surprise to me at all; being that he’s made it clear over the years that he is an avid ‘pac fan, it seems he’s definitely following in suit.

· i actually saw a tweet today, from @princess_simba (the girl who had Cole attend her graduation), who showed a picture of the letter Cole sent her before the grad’; with focus on the top part, where the words read were actually ‘4 Your Eyes Only’. So, is he going down even more of a cryptic path in how he approaches the releases of his work these days (his last LP also appeared out of nowhere, or “out the sky” — only through a banner, rather than a pre-order link, which shortly after also appeared)? Is this now just his standard procedure? But then, funnily enough (as i often say)… according to Billboard, apparently the iTunes pre-order link, that had mysteriously appeared, supposedly disappeared.

· With Cole’s last album featuring nobody, and it being based on achieving that ‘happiness’, i wonder just what direction he’ll be taking next, both with his content and musically; with it being his fourth LP now.

· Does this album have any ties to/anything to do with 2014 Forest Hills Drive, being that it was said to originally be a “double album” — and so, could this effort coincide with it, since it comes two years later on.

· How can he actually top his last LP? Does he wish to? Is this next album just going to be another splodge of the paint on his pallet to be added to the canvas existing? Will we be introduced to new cadences? Does the usual subject matter die, as he progresses to something new, or does he remain within the same realm he’s been in, carrying very similar & familiar themes that we’ve grown to know by now; almost 10 years really into this ‘game’? Will Cole be departing from his past sounds, and taking an extreme stride into a more risky, experimental route; dabbling in new sonics? Production has been a big thing many have spoken on when it’s come to announcement of every Cole album [post Sideline Story] that’s been due. If there was one thing Cole was notorious for, prior to going “double platinum with no features,” it’s producing the majority of his own projects.

After Born Sinner (which entailed production handled by Jake One, Syience, Elite on Co-, and Jermaine himself), Cole began to let up on his artistic integrity and ego, allowing room for more range on the sound to invade his space and bodies of work. Pop & Oak, Vinylz, Cardiak, !llmind, Phonix, Ron Gilmore (assisting) all took part and had a hand in crafting FHD. This, of course, brings me to ponder on the obvious: who has produced for this LP? Some example of producers i’d have liked Cole to work with, are: Organized Noize, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Q-Tip, DJ Dahi (who provided the beat for “No Role Modelz”), Hit-Boy, Flying Lotus, Timberland, Mike Dean, & Madlib, just to keep the list short and to minimal. We know Cole can produce heat, as he’s proven he is more than capable… But, please; more variety? Way less limitations. We know what you can do on beats, ‘maine… or do you have more in store for us that we’re not hip to, nor [are] we even ready for. One thing that i am all for, though, is the album having  10/11 tracks only, which should mean and make for a focused effort. Super glad he’s decided to cut down the amount. This, i think, could be his most musical piece, where it’s focused on just the listening, rather than the visuals; and is potent enough in words that it will “paint a picture that’s vivid enough to kill blindness. Carolina’s Finest,” correct? But then again, i can’t help but think we may be in for a visual-oriented album (look at the album cover, for instance; the two colour patches, and just a simple nuance such as it depicting him looking at something; we can’t see his face… is he trying to take us through what he sees? maybe i’m looking a little too deep into it — but i don’t think it’s something to ignore; i very much doubt so, in fact. like [Quentin] Tarrantino, he leaves room for thought… but fills in the gaps. Cole does things with a purpose. Perhaps we should be closely paying attention to the details and concentrating on what he says. It’s nothing new if he really has something to say, but if so, then — what could it be?).

· Though the competition is nada to him, with the position that he’s gained; the seat he’s sitting on (even if there are “no more kings”), and other albums set to release,  can he blow others out of the water? Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love and Smoke DZA x Pete Rock’s Don’t Smoke Rock are both out tomorrow. KiD CuDi’s Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin’ is out two weeks from tomorrow. Post Malone’s Stoney,  too, drops on the 9th. And then, Drake’s More Life is due any time this month now. Is he looking to crush the competition before and following him? It’s not exactly like 2016 has been a weak year for music, musically (npi). Is Cole trying to scoop a strong contending spot for AOTY at the last minute? Plus, it’s not even like he has to put an album out and is doing so for the sake of it.

It all gives me nothing but so many questions (like above). No doubts so much. It’s more so my concern for his legacy as an artist. Is it too soon? Does he feel the pressure to drop (even though i’m sure he knows he doesn’t need to)? Guess we’ll find out this time next week. Though my points may sound critical, i speak only as a fan who wants the best — so, don’t you ever get it twisted.

To say that i was thinking suicidally early this morning, to now come to the fact —as i (again) predicted [either the following, or that him & K. Dot actually would release the ting — he’s dropping an album, shows me that there is hope. my prayers were answered yet again. Thank you once again, Cole, for blessing me the day before my birthday. First it was coming to Birmingham to perform as part of tour What Dreams May Come Tour. Then it was 2014 Forest Hills Drive. Revenge of the Dreamers II (which was on the 8th, so two days before — but still!). And then lastly — this. It’s reminded me that there’s always hope, and always blessings whenever i least expect them. WDMC, right? Good thing i wore my T-shirt from the tour, then (edit note, 02:33—34 a.m. | 02/12/2016: wearing it again right now — who knows what dreams may come true this sleep, eh? [smurk emoji]).

… Cole World, but hopefully the music, again, will keep us warm this winter, huh. From Friday Night Lights (still standing as your strongest to date) up to now, it’s evident you don’t play; and you ain’t let the ‘villains down just yet… i trust you — and trust that you don’t intend on doing so anytime soon either.

MUSICAL PEAK

i’d argue that a lot of things in this world are best in their rawest form; their most true — music being one of those things.

On Friday, 7th October, 2016, Black America Again, and HERE — studio albums by Common and Alicia Keys respectively — were released. Two great bodies of work from artists well into their music careers (with Common being just reasonably a few years ahead of Alicia). Last night and this evening, i put myself to listen to each of them, and weirdly, almost feel this strange honor to have done so.

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The reason i felt inclined to write today, was because of — or should i say ‘subconsciously’ linked to — Usher’s eighth studio album Hard II Love (which i was disappointed with, and more openly voiced my opinion, here on Twitter: http://bit.ly/2g0csjV). In contrast to that, i felt that what Alicia and Common brought to the table, was them. [By that] meaning; themselves (of course, obviously); their true artistic selves, and while inspired — it wasn’t so obvious and plain to see. The reason i say so, is because, i do somewhat believe that it was albums delivered by artists like Solange (A Seat at the Table), and Kendrick Lamar (To Pimp a Butterfly) — though considerably younger than the two main subjects of here — that set new standards for elders, who, like i say, are fairly well into their careers now. Despite Alicia (who, might i say, sounds beautifully NY, how she gets on this album) and Lonnie being known to consistently give us great music each time around (and if not, then good at least), it’s nothing new to know that there are plenty of recording artists making music to sound like the times — whatever’s popping right now — hence why i’m happy and me being proud of two of my favourites of all-time. Who knows — had nothing but trash excuses for music been released in 2016, would two remarkable LPs from two veterans have come of this age? Hmmm… — one can only wonder, right? Perhaps they weren’t so inspired to make and release top-tier music. Perhaps they were already in these creative zones of theirs and had the juices flowing.

But anyway, without further ado — and to avoid dragging on (even though that sounds silly to me right now, since i’ve dragged on enough already) — rather than make this like an essay (which, now that i think of it, is actually a type of writing i’ve grown bored of — and again, even though i stated i’m pretty bored of them, this will probably still find a way through me to sound like one… hypocrite; i know), i thought it would be much lighter (HOW?!) to instead just let go of some of what was running through my head, both as i listened to Common’s [new] album, and watched the short film that he dropped alongside it. So — not to in any way disregard what incredible music Alicia Keys put out, but — here are my POINTS:

Me personally, i think that Common is the original Kendrick Lamar, just without the rough edges — a poetic MC; an extremely Afrocentric, woke individual, proud to be where he’s from, who knows the ghetto, and, [being] unafraid to, with confidence, can comfortably and unapologetically speak on issues going on, both within it and outside of it… but also provide suggestive solutions, and always a positive light to the negatives.

Black America Again being a more accessible version of — and easier-on-the-ears-and-to-consume/dissect listen than — Like Water For Chocolate, but just as clearly focused on the message as [he] was in the tail-mentioned (Oxford, you better quote me on this one — i coined it, motherfuckers, a’ight?).

Is Common the blackest light-skin of all-time before Jesse Williams? (this one was just for my own humoring — purely).

COMMON Black America Again with BJ The Chicago Kid (Live on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon)

i’m super glad that Common switched up “Black America Again” for the short film, showing and bringing variation to a song; stripping it down to the raw and exposing a different side to it. Just when i thought for a second, ‘Aaah — why wasn’t this version on the album?’ i snapped out and realized: it’s art — and fortunately, Common knew how to do it in just the right way.

The only thing that i’d change about this album, would be the placement of “Black America Again.” The climax of that song is so strong, i’m surprised Common didn’t put it at the end of the album. i mean, “Letter To The Free (featuring Bilal)” was super… but the the title track trumps — it be trumping.

Watching the Black America Again short film triggered me to come up with the word ‘glorientacious’ also.

COMMON Black America Again (short film)

Kareem Riggins did his thiing on the production (along with Robert Glasper) for this project. For Robert, i certainly get why artists such as Erykah have worked with him; and why others are also keen to. And Bilal — well, between being heavily featured on Common’s eleventh solo effort (four tracks in total) and two tracks on [Kendrick Lamar’s] To Pimp a Butterfly, he sure is showing how brilliant he is, to be the go-to — and with a shared chemistry as great as his & Common’s, it’s no wonder they’ve been linking up for over 15 years now.

One of my favourite things about 2016, is the accidental-yet-non-surprising connection between many albums that have spawned from what’s been vividly going on in America over the past three years. For e.g. you could take — as much as they’re the obvious and more favorable choices — A Seat at the Table and Black America Again, put them into a playlist back to back, or Black Messiah and To Pimp a Butterfly, and they’d make the perfect musical companions to each other.

The way how George Clinton & The Parliament Funkadelic and A Tribe Called Quest were probably grooving to TPAB, to me, is likely of the same-natured likeness of gratitude that Marvin Gaye and Gil-Scott Heron would show towards Common’s collection of songs, here in 2016.

Again, it’s no real news that Malibu by Anderson .Paak, has been my favourite album of 2016, as well as the album i regard best this year. But while it’s only been one single listen to Black America Again so far — Common may just have dethroned .Paak, and snatched the A.O.T.Y. title from him. Really, i just hope and pray that Common’s latest album doesn’t become my new and all-time favourite Common album, taking over Be; also meaning that it would become my favourite album, not only in hip-hop, but of all-time altogether, which a huge deal, with the latter being in cemented, firm position for a good three years now.

Without nitpicking, i’d say there’s no way that anybody can tell me the album is not a 9/10 at least. And if Common wanted to, he could really ended on this note, yo.

If John Legend’s new album Darkness and Light is of the stell’ that Alicia (not to cause confusion and have you drifting off into thinking i’ve turned this whole portion of the text into being about her(e) album) and Common gave us, then the fourth quarter of this year has truly come full-circle. First Alicia and Common, then John? *Ron Simmons ‘DAMN!’*.

Oh yeah, and: if Common could grow hair — i have no doubt in my mind that he’d have locs… freeform locs.

It’s easy for me, i suppose, to say, since i’m not a U.S. citizen, living in America — but don’t feel so sad about Trump, folk(s). It’s not the end of the world until it is. You’re still going to wake up. Just change the way how you look at the world. Doing so might not change the world or fix/solve everything, no. However… you might as well make the most of the badness with some goodness, right?

Sincerely,

LSNCLR

Fitting

Finally completed the trilogy of A Tribe Called Quest first three albums last night in the a.m., with Midnight Marauders being the last one i had left to listen to—phenomenal.

But yeah, so… This is where it gets weird, right…
Since i have a playlist comprised of music (full-length projects to be specific) on my phone that i’ve yet to listen to for first times, what i now do, is listen from the top of the playlist where i finish off (sometimes going from one project straight into another).

So, last night, i played three albums. After Midnight (the Tribe album and literally, in terms of what time it was), i jumped straight into Riff Raff’s Peach Panther… And it BANGED—super hard like Rottweiler; shit was super early morning glory. Once finished listening, i was just like… ‘The bars and hooks were genius, and all of those beats were nasty.’ Damn, Jody!
Anyway, i get onto my third and final listen of the night—though it would have been fourth, as i was tempted to listen to The Infamous by Mobb Deep after this one—What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye… emotional.

As i sat there listening in retrospect, to a 30/31-year-old singing his blues regarding troubles of the world in 1971, i couldn’t help the melancholy that was the fact i feel the same way Marvin felt. “Save The Children” probably stood out to me the most. This album came out 23 years before i was even but a mere sperm, let alone a physical existenceyet, it’s 45 years since its release, and there was me, 21-years-of-age, feeling connected, yo. It does hurt, though, that these exact issues he addressed still exist today; and maybe will do forever if something serious isn’t done or doesn’t happen/take place. Can’t call it; i don’t know—perhaps the world is the world, and this is the way of it. It’s Still Going On, Marvin.

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 SUBTLE CHANGES

LSNCLR’s ‘Subtle Changes, 8th August’ | photo by Krystle Sinclair

Feeling SUPER accomplished & fulfilled (a creator’s geek-out moment/wet dream)

Always wanted to try my hand in recreating a photograph, and was so keen to recreate the original (left) that it became like a sickly disease. Thought it would be interesting to see the changes between this year and last.

Big up Krystle, for putting up and having patience — we managed to get a near-duplicate (right).

Video

Buss da GEMS

you know it’s a quality interview when Westwood isn’t asking questions and lets a guy such as Bussa Buss drop insights, knowledge, stories all from his own personal experience & observation.

i’m glad that Busta touched on the gap between the beginning of hip-hop and where it’s gotten to now; its current juncture. it’s important that guys like Buss are around “to remind,” like he said and spoke of Q-Tip and the other “gatekeepers” of the culture.

P.S. Busta Rhymes i.m.o, is definitely one of the greatest rappers in hip-hop to touch it. nothing but respect for an OG such as him, 25 years in; with it being such a blessing to have him still relevant and willing to contribute to what’s going on; feeling discontent with what he’s done for the ting thus far. and if his next album is really what he’s cracking it up to be, then i’m supe-r-eady to hear what he threw in the cauldron.

what was going on with Westwood’s hand, though?

BASHIN’ THE REPLAY BUTTON. PULL-UUUGHHHPP, MY SELEKTA!

it’s been a WHIIILE, mate. if you didn’t know ans haven’t been keeping track of his movements over the past year, Wretch has been quietly heating up again. the kettle whistled long time. if you didn’t catch it, then peak. yuh tea nah brew up just yet, and this kinda stuff is too cold for any nation to bear.

this is the [real] “fire.” DI REAL, MY LARD! BLESS the brudda Wretch for continuing to give us nothing but his everything.

POWERS inna di locs, warriyah.