Hackney. My birthplace. Growing up in the 90’s through postcode wars with my friends making that fast road money, it wasn’t easy for me to avoid temptation. When the mandem was rocking Prada’s and Schott jackets at school, I rocked the Clarks (they were always polished though). Being somewhat of an anthropologist, I sat back and watched my friends get deeper into the streets. Some died, some got locked up. My world view shifted to getting myself away from the pull of the spinning whirlpool of quick money, fast cars and loud girls.
Telling a story that doesn’t side on the normal narrative associated with UK rap is what drew my attention to fellow Hackney native, SNE, a vocalist who tells stories of fine women, friends and the musical grind. First seeing SNE performing ‘Tell Me‘ at Birthdays to an energetic crowd who knew all the words, I could see then that he’d worked on creating a close fan base, and that night whilst driving home, I listened to all of the songs on his Soundcloud.
In August, SNE released his long awaited project ‘Essence‘. Judging by social media, the anticipation for this body of work has been building for a while. Admittedly, I’ve not been paying much attention the last few months but whilst recently building a playlist for my commute to work, I found myself adding ‘Tiana Major‘ alongside songs to calm me down during the summer TFL rush hour. This reintroduction to SNE was what led me to sit down with ‘Essence’ and experience what others on my timeline were celebrating.
“My brudda’s in the trap. Me, I’m tryna’ tell him it’s a trap. He said, ‘look bro, i’m in a trap'” – Trappola Fratello
Listening to the first track brought back the feeling I had growing up in Clapton, trying to explain to my friends that the thrills on road are only temporary. ‘Trappola Fratello‘ acts out somewhat of a warrior call from SNE. Emotionally calling out to his friend who he can see going down a treacherous path. He draws parallels between the hard work he’s doing for musical success with the grind that his friends are going through, each doing things that they feel will allow them to achieve their goals. However contrasting their methods, you can hear SNE has a need to make sure his people are good.
SNE speaks about the work he’s put in and why he’s doing it. He’s in tune with what’s happening in his surroundings and wants to use music to remove himself from the potentials perils.
“You can’t tell me ’bout shows, I go there and shell them all. You can’t tell me ’bout road, my mandem will see you as edible” – Me You You
Songs like ‘Titantic (ft. Baseman)’ see SNE linking up with a fellow east London MC to speak out being caught up on the facade of immediate attention, “They’re all in my boat, but would they be there if the boat didn’t float?” SNE doesn’t mind people taking snaps, and what he says matches what I’ve seen personally. He seems to be a people person and I’ve seen him kill his performance, then jump off the stage and stand in the crowd to enjoy others.
“16 I was meant to blow, damn I missed my queue. Now i’m in a queue, stretching for your queue” – This Is Not A Dream Interlude
It seems that he has his feet on the ground and is not fazed by RTs and tens of thousands of Soundcloud listens. Other songs on this project show how aware he is about how he grew up and the struggles that were happening around him. Being realistic about his life, he touches on experiences of his mother wondering about his late night antics and coming in late after performances and having to wash up. Doesn’t matter how many fans were screaming his name a few hours ago, scrubbing plates quickly reminded SNE that there was still work to be done.
Not being one to shy away from expressing how he feels about the women in his life, ‘Essence’ touches on various scenarios. From fighting against the temptations from ex girlfriends (Come Again), conflicting feelings of infatuation with Ojerime (442) and professing his feelings with Rebecca Garton on (No More Singing), SNE gives a glimpse into thoughts of a significant other.
SNE in ‘Essence‘ has created a multifaceted piece of work that demonstrates the different ways he handles situations. Working with strong producers, SNE serves up a variety sounds that serves to be a never ending gift.