He is our modern day Shakespeare but with great hair. Our rap heavyweight champion. Our answer when the world questions our place in Hip Hop. Wretch 32 is arguably the best rapper in the country. To be fair, you could place him on a song with any rapper on the planet and there’s a high chance that he’ll spin them.
Wretch 32’s local supporters have been waiting for an album since he dropped ‘6 Words’. His new style turned him into a vocalist on the song, surprising the majority of his fans who saw him ‘gliding in key’ but ultimately it was a success. This new direction led to Wretch’s fifth top ten single in the UK.
Two years later, we are presented with ‘Growing Over Life’, his 3rd studio album which leads the listener down a path exploring the mind of a man who’s been trying to win in the midst of surrounding challenges. The intro to the album, ‘Antwi’, named after his late friend, displays a self confirmation that he’s here to take over. With bars like “that’s why I punch above my weight ’till I beat Adele“, the introduction to this album serves as a strong battle cry to show spectators that he’s aware of his goal and is determined to score.
My own life has changed over the last 5 years, and while this album is made by someone of my generation, it’s great to hear music that doesn’t require me to be nostalgic. ‘Growing Over Life’ sounds current. Songs speak of pressure placed on a young man who walks the streets where the struggle is evident. Having friends going through madness on the roads will have some quickly changing their focus in life.
Wretch 32 is the voice that champions the thoughts of elevation and striving to bring yourself out of situations that hold you down. Using ‘Dreams / Sunshine’ to eloquently uplift through understanding, Wretch knows his position as a credible figure in music is more believable when he speaks directly about being confused about which path to take. Building the intrigue around his story, he paints the picture that everything that glitters isn’t gold. Guys walking around with gold watches and fast cars can be a mirage for young people living a hard life. Throughout Wretch’s musically journey he’s shown that the real efforts of people around his way, can be channeled into something positive.
‘Growing Over Life’ is like a beacon for the hood. Shining a light on the injustices that occur that some people know all too well. When monstrosities happen in an area where you’re from, to a person that you know personally, it can lead to an uprising which captivates the entire country. As an artist, you have the ability to internalise this information and feelings, then release them into a microphone.
Heart of a winner. Face of a killer. They say mi shape like gorilla. That’s how they get away when they kill us.
‘Liberation’ shows Wretch 32 demonstrating his confidence, using powerful imagery that shows strength and a sense of community. Wretch greeting a man on fire shows the love that he has for someone who’s hot on the block, still willing to be the positive sign that will help his friends get through the oppression they may feel.
This album is aimed to show the world that there are different types of rap music to come out of this country. When I first heard ‘I.O.U.’ on a drive home from a theme park, I smiled at the thought of my family driving behind me. It’s a song that’s beautiful in showing love to people who are still alive to hear it, something we forget to do. In true Wretch fashion, the wordplay in the chorus is genius, using the familiar phonetic sounds of the 5 vowels to tell his mother and his sister, both names beginning with the letter E, that he owes them for their presence in his life. Enlisting one of our national treasures, Emeli Sande sings these words and makes them even more powerful. When I hear this song, I see an arena full of people singing along. No doubt Jonny Coffer did an amazing job in making this song sound massive.
When mum wasn’t here, you were shouting in my ear. Kinda jumped into gear. It was like you had a manual
There’s so much I can say about ‘Growing Over Life’. It’s one of those albums that has hidden gems that make themselves clear to you when you listen to the songs again. Wretch 32 is a lyrical beast with the ability to hide messages through clever wordplay. Even with commercial sounding songs like ‘All A Dream’, the narrative makes it clear that in the event of trouble, his people will stand up and fight.
This album has the balance that Wretch 32 has cultivated carefully to be well received amongst his supporters. The people who loved his Fire In the Booth will hear the wordplay throughout this album and still be exposed to new sounds. Those new sounds will attractive a wider audience who will become aware of the real world story about where Wretch emerged from. The beauty in this body of work is it’s ability to transform every listeners experience into living through the stories that make it abundantly clear that Wretch 32 has grown through life.