Loyle Carner review – soul-searching hip-hop with charged intensity

Garage, London
The fresh-faced British rapper’s unsentimental candour is coupled with a thrilling love for language and J Dilla-inspired beats

‘Write what you know,” remains sound creative advice and Loyle Carner has certainly heeded it. This 20-year-old south London rapper, born Benjamin Coyle-Larner, is on stage for mere seconds before launching into BFG, a heartrending eulogy for his late stepfather: “Everybody says I’m fuckin’ sad, of course I’m fuckin’ sad, I miss my fuckin’ dad.”

His candour is striking but it’s his love for language that truly excites. The fresh-faced Carner’s wordy confessionals are all charged intensity and sprung rhythms. Hearing this wired figure’s a cappella rendition of Florence, a poetic musing on what it might be like to have a kid sister, it’s easy to see why he has collaborated with Kate Tempest.

His emotive ruminations are delivered over jazzy, sparse yet sultry beats, courtesy of producer/DJ Rebel Kleef, that evoke J Dilla’s less-is-more work with A Tribe Called Quest. Carner freely acknowledges this debt, paying tribute here to the late producer before covering his group Slum Village’s The Look of Love.

He is soul-searching during his cathartic raps, amiable and personable between them. “This is for anybody who has got a deadbeat dad,” he grins before Tiernay Terrace, a moving soliloquy on growing up with an absentee biological father and later being forced to become the man of the house in his early teens.

The counterbalance to this is his love for his late stepfather, which he voices sweetly while brandishing his lost mentor’s football shirt during the poignant Cantona. The fact he does this without appearing remotely mawkish or sentimental hints that Loyle Carner will prove to be a rare talent.

• Loyle Carner is at Outlines festival, Sheffield, on 27 February. Tickets: 0141-241 3040.


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Loyle Carner: Yesterday's Gone review – melancholy vignettes for rainy afternoons
Carner’s domestic-flavoured rap works because of its modest scale, non-accusatory vulnerability and its perfect matching of music to lyrics

Alexis Petridis

19, Jan, 2017 @3:00 PM

Article image
De La Soul review – storming hip-hop past, present and future
The Long Island crew stage a joyful party with fresh tunes that defy any temptation to box them as a ‘heritage’ act

Stevie Chick

12, Mar, 2017 @12:28 PM

Article image
Imarhan review – bluesy soul-searching and campfire conviviality
Emerging stars of Tuareg rock deliver a polished performance of mesmeric traditional music enlivened by outside influences

Graeme Virtue

03, Aug, 2016 @11:30 AM

Article image
Loyle Carner: Yesterday’s Gone review – a startling debut
Croydon rapper Ben Coyle-Larner is candid and driven on a beguiling album that features a guest turn by his mum…

Kitty Empire

22, Jan, 2017 @9:00 AM

Article image
Plan B review – limp comeback for would-be bard of modern soul
Ben Drew’s surefooted rap flow and melodic falsetto is used in conservative material that rings hollow in a venue unsuited to furious guitars

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

25, Jul, 2017 @1:10 PM

Article image
Loyle Carner and Drake: this week’s best UK rock and pop gigs
Catch the charismatic rapper destined for big things – and the superstar who has made it already. Plus: Two Door Cinema Club, Raye and INHEAVEN

Tim Jonze

03, Feb, 2017 @11:00 AM

Article image
Villagers review – sparse soul-searching and pin-sharp acoustics
Confessionals alternate with bursts of jagged boldness in Conor O’Brien’s sincere and intimate gig

Maddy Costa

04, May, 2015 @12:14 PM

Article image
Loyle Carner: Not Waving, But Drowning review – heartfelt hip-hop
Paeans to his mum, girlfriend and almost everybody else he knows make for an that is intimate and refreshing second album

Rachel Aroesti

19, Apr, 2019 @8:30 AM

Article image
Loyle Carner review – hip-hop with an open heart
From daddy issues to violent crime, the south London rapper’s thoughtful set is distinguished by its emotional candour and vulnerability

Kitty Empire

18, Mar, 2023 @2:00 PM

Dappy – review
Dappy is a decent enough rapper – his speciality is hyperfast wordplay, Jay-Z style – but his appeal lies in the Dap factor, an entertaining ridiculousness, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

13, Dec, 2011 @6:45 PM