The first time I heard the seminal album ‘Boy In The Corner’, I remember listening to the 1st track and wondering, is this Grime? Dizzee Rascal chose to start off his debut album with ‘Sittin’ Here’. A calm reflective song which describes the thoughts of a young man who seems to be floating over the ends and taking notes of what he witnesses. This was pioneering and showed the depth of what Grime music could be.
There is no set formula nor standard sound for Grime music. One artist who understands that very well is South London’s own, Novelist. The Lewisham native has been putting in the work on radio sets and producing underground clubs bangers for a while having established himself as an example of the quality the Grime scene can produce. However, in 2017, it seemed like he put his potential mainstream career on the back burner. Instead, he chose to focus on his craft and his (Ruff) sound. While supporters were yearning for an album, Novelist was documenting his creative process in his bedroom through live streams and releasing random songs and an instrumental album. This time has been used wisely and the fruits of his labour are evident with a debut album entirely written and produced by Novelist.
Aptly titled, ‘Novelist Guy’, admittedly it’s not the hype, high energy Grime I was expecting. Instead, it seems Novelist has chosen to follow in the footsteps of Wiley and establish his own interpretation of the sound. The preconceived notions I had were smashed to bits as ‘Start’ played through my headphones and I was somewhat surprised by the pleasant slow bounce of the opening track. Initially, I pictured an intro to rival the energy of Meek Mill, but what it did do was set the tone of the album with a message that was positively honest.
“See a brudda tell him wha gwarn / Start / Giving love is healing like a pla-ster” – Start
It changes gear with the next couple of tracks which see the tempo increase and the lyrics becoming more directional. ‘Dot Dot Dot’ shows that Novelist is focused and his goal is firmly in his sights. He sounds clear and determined, ready for the journey ahead of him. Ever mindful of his surroundings, songs like ‘Gangster’, ‘Afro Pick’ & ‘Wait Wait Wait’ shows that he is aware of the position that he is in and its time to analyse his environment.
“Don’t wanna feel like a fish in a pond / When the deep blue sea’s where I come from” – Dot Dot Dot
At the time of writing this, there have been over 60 murders in London. The tension in the city is palpable, especially in the inner city where local disputes are often dealt violently. Novelist has been speaking on this in his music and in marches since he came on the scene and he carries on this tradition on the album. Songs like ‘Stop Killing The Mandem’ and ‘Smiles’ are attempts to bring light to these situations and use his music to potentially assist in a change of attitude.
There are a few instrumental interludes and a dynamic radio set skit which transports listeners to a place reminiscent of how they may have initially heard of Novelist. The penultimate track ‘Better Way’ is a great way to encapsulate his attitude to life and reinforces what he has shown in several interviews, including the cover story sitting on my desk.
Gone is the badboy ting. This album is progressive and documents the coming of age of a young MC growing up in London who is trying to stay on the right path and is encouraging others to do the same. There are not many in the scene who are actively spreading a positive message in their music, so it’s great to hear a notable artist choosing to dedicate his debut album to focus on making listeners aware that there are many different stories to be told.
Most artists tend to use their music for the majority, tell the hard tales of where they came from. Novelist is using his music to show where he wants to be.