If you have ever played any of the FIFA games, you know their soundtrack is one of the best as far as sports video games go. It has artists from all over the world and can be anything from alternative to hip hop. It’s always just fun, cool music. This is how I stumbled across Loyle Carner. Featured on a Tom Misch song in FIFA 19, I was like “wait wait wait, who is this smooth ass MC?” Before I knew it, Yesterday’s Gone, his debut album from 2017, became one of my favorite albums. It’s incredibly flowly, fun, and smooth. Before you tell me that you don’t like the sound of British rappers or that vibed out hip hop isn’t your style, just give the album a listen, in order, as you read this review.
So I can’t talk about Loyle Carner’s vocals without talking about his flows. They feel like water, and no, that isn’t an exaggeration. I don’t really know if it’s his accent or if his general skill but something about the way he delivers his verses just feels smooth. Like smooth as marble smooth. I love the way he starts the album with a sample of Dr. Dre’s “It’s All on Me”. “The Isle of Arran” is lyrically a phenomenal song, discussing the trials of being a young dad after his own father left. “+44” has some beautiful poetry done in the form of spoken words and I feel breaks up the initial tracks quite well. Tom Misch also hops on the chorus of “Damselfly” so you already know that’s a vibe right there. On “Florence”, we also get to see his more emotional side. You can almost hear the cracks in his voice as he talks about the little sister he never had. As he said in an interview, “I’ve always wanted a little sister. The music speaks for itself…” That’s a huge part of this album. Family. Carner clearly values his family, his childhood, and his upbringing. He doesn’t need to rap about money, drugs, cars, jewelry, etc.; instead, he focuses on what matters most to him. You can really feel his love and admiration in his verses, and it undoubtedly makes his music feel much more meaningful. Sure, he has some assistance though. The beats are beautifully done and definitely help him but I often found myself grooving to his flows and words instead of the hi-hats or basses. It also definitely helps to have some solid features on this project. Tom Misch, Kwes, Rebel Kleff, and Jehst all provide the right amount of talent without ever overpowering the track they are on. Plus he raps about Guinness on “No Worries”…I’m a Guinness guy…I like that a lot.
“Still you slip for a minute, blame the Guinness that you sip
Little piss, missing ignorance and bliss”
The beat on “The Isle of Arran” sets the tone for the entire record. It’s faint choir vocals, haunting piano, cheery guitar, and hand claps adds a nice gospel feel to Carner’s hip-hop debut. This flows into every other song on Yesterday’s Gone. It’s soulful, jazzy, and ridiculously smooth. At times, it almost reminds of the lo-fi playlist I listen to when I study. You just start to drift off into a different world. “Damselfly” is a top-quality track solely because of the instrumentals behind it. Anytime Tom Misch is on guitar, you can’t resist feeling relaxed and vibed out. “Ain’t Nothing Changed” takes us back to the ’80s with its old school sound. It feels like something off an old Tribe Called Quest album. Coming in as the 9th track on the album, the beat on “Stars & Shards” throws you off guard a bit. It’s totally different than the rest of the album in the fact that it isn’t jazzy. Instead, we get this very rock n’ roll vibe with its prominent guitar loop throughout. Lastly, after all the chill, jazzy, dreamy beats throughout, we are brought back to earth with an acoustic, previously unreleased project of his dad’s. It provides a nice, cheery end to the album as a whole.
Nowhere on this album do I feel like a track is disjointed or messy. The flow is nearly perfect. That being said, I highly recommend you throw this whole piece on in order when you are studying or working. While it’s smooth and jazzy, the flow of it all almost feels productive. I love the breakups Carner chose to use like the candid recording of him and his mother on “Swear” and the spoken poetry of “+44”. As I said, it seems that Carner really designed this project to listen in order…just like an old school vinyl record.
“The Isle of Arran”, “Damselfly”, “Ain’t Nothing Changed”, “Stars and Shards”, and “No CD”
There are rappers I recommend and then there are rappers that I recommend. Loyle Carner is one of them. Easily one of the best new rappers out of London, I highly advise anyone who likes hip hop even in the slightest to check him out. He, of course, isn’t for anyone but Yesterday’s Gone is essential to any good hip hop library. It’s got fast stuff, slow stuff, vibey stuff, and all-around flow. I thought it would only make sense to publish this on Colossus one year anniversary. It’s been a minute since I gave out a perfect ten. It takes a special album to get that rating. Yesterday’s Gone gets a…
Debate me all you want in the comments…this is one of my favorite albums and a seriously solid put out by the young London MC. If he keeps putting out music (which he just dropped a new album so check that out), it wouldn’t shock me if he starts to get solid attention in the US.