Skepta, Chip and Young Adz: Insomnia review – dark, funny and perfectly timed

(SKCM29)
Two grime veterans and the drawling D-Block Europe member team up to create a slow-paced record that feels calibrated for the cultural moment

This surprise album from three leading UK MCs is a perfectly timed gift. Mercury prize-winning Skepta, Tottenham MC Chip – both longstanding grime veterans – and Young Adz, from UK trap group D-Block Europe, have presumably been cooking up this collaboration for a while. But everything about it feels calibrated for the current, strange cultural moment: it’s immediately available, rides low at a tempo that’s perfect for listening to while on lockdown in your house or car, and, with the title Insomnia, tackles paranoid themes with the light relief of dark humour.

Skepta, Chip and Young Adz: Insomnia album art work
Skepta, Chip and Young Adz: Insomnia album art work Photograph: Publicity image

Ditching Skepta and Chip’s usual rapid-fire 140bpm style, the release leans backs into a trap pace throughout, all skittering snares and elastic bass. Its dominant mood is contemplative and guarded: after the three swap bars about not being able to sleep on Insomnia, Young Adz drawls a hook about dropping “10 stacks on therapy” on the saxophone-assisted Traumatised. Taken as a whole, the shadowy, slow-paced record is missing some of the high-octane energy and experimentalism that defines their best solo releases.

But there are flashes of levity throughout, whether that’s Skepta’s melodic turn on the summery Golden Brown, the MIA sample that snakes through St Tropez, or Chip’s punchlines. “If three man try link up and do a album, it’s not gonna sound like this,” he declares over the menacing roll of Waze. He’s right – even immersed in the US trap sound, this is a distinctive, sharp record that only these three UK voices could have made.

Contributor

Aimee Cliff

The GuardianTramp

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