Loyle Carner: Hugo review – a beautiful, blistering masterpiece

The disarmingly open Londoner rapper tackles identity, mixed-race roots and relationships on his richly introspective third album

One of the most cherishable things about the British-Guyanese rapper Loyle Carner is that he has the smarts to dissect subjects that others swerve while appealing to a mainstream audience. On BBC One’s Saturday Kitchen earlier this month, he spoke about his neurodiversity, including ADHD and dyslexia; his third album, Hugo, goes deep on identity, mixed-race roots and complex relationships with father figures now he’s a parent himself. Carner interrogates himself in ways that could be solipsistic or monomaniacal in the bars of someone less skilled, but instead feels generous, vulnerable and strangely beautiful, looking inward to harvest universal truths.

The singles Hate, Georgetown and epic choral swoon Nobody Knows (Ladas Road) are career bests, with Carner’s increased presence and holy fire in the booth matched by Kwes’s dramatic, intense productions. Dissociated elements of jazz trickle through the songs without dominating them – Blood on My Nikes drags you down darkened city streets with piano, muffled metallic drums and gentle synths; A Lasting Place is a stunning ballad that shrinks to silence, battered by the gale of his words.

Like Michael Kiwanuka, Carner’s first two albums were occasionally terrific but his third is a masterpiece.

Watch the video for Nobody Knows (Ladas Road) by Loyle Carner.


Damien Morris

The GuardianTramp

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