Success stays forever, but the pain goes quick: From growing up in the gutters to the legacy of others, and finally falling back to his home-grounds in his beloved city, Aitch reaches new-bound maturity with his debut album.
It’s been quite a few crazy years for Manchesters’ newest poster boy – in the figurative and literal sense of the word – as he smashes out top 10 worldies, immense collaboratives with a breakthrough catching the eye of Stormzy and featuring on the cover of The Face, Aitch has no means of slowing down.
From young and stupid… The luxuries of staying in lockdown has afforded Aitch to work more intently on his highly anticipated debut album, ‘Close to Home’ and it ultimately shows throughout the 16-track run-through. The time taken of two years has allowed Aitch – real name Harrison Armstrong – to flesh out a more distinct and honest rapper that the UK focal scene really grafts towards – as opposed to the cheeky ‘Straight Rhymez’ character that floats in the air as long as it needs to before it disappears.
A more humble approach, Close to Home is a rap blueprint playing homage to his Mancunian roots. Whether it be a sweet acoustic tribute to his family and sister Gracie, who suffers with down syndrome, with ‘My G‘ (sisters’ name is Georgia) or sampling Manchester-born Stone Roses’ Fools Gold on ‘1989‘, or even Shaun Ryder voicing on ’90s raving’ and ‘loving phone calls from old mates’ in Louis Vitton’, it lodges another pin into making Manchester a focal talking point in the world of music.
Public confessions are not too few and far between either with ‘Belgrave Road’ and ‘Hollinwood to Hollywood’ marking a distinct change between growing up in council estates to performing on some of the most iconic stages around the world. Of course, with it being the staple rapping game, we can’t be too far away from the usual boasts of ‘Money Habits’ and Bring It Back‘ – like we get it, you earn money and women with your profession. A somewhat stale approach on an album all about homecomings but they’re damn hard beats after all, so it’s easy to let off at this point.
Sunshine, featuring New Machine, is a butter-smooth lo-fi venture as we have a good catch up with a pint at the local and 100x offers the same stretch as it brings those same echoic instrumentals that we’ve heard throughout. Two ones-to-watch here.
It’s a much more individual progression of songwriting, and allows Aitch to open up more so about himself and his childhood like any other rappers dare to do. Aitch joins the young, aspiring roster of Dave and Loyle Carner, as the UK rap scene becomes all the more explosive than it already was.
I’m from up North, I was bombin’ the deep sideSunshine, feat. New Machine – Aitch
You feel like you seen, you seen it all, you ain’t seen mine
Throw it back, let me rewind
Never got my grades, told moms, yeah, I’ll be fine
Set my head straight, had to focus on me time
We only got one life and I’m tryna keep mine
But fuck it, I ain’t stressin’, I’ll just play it by ear
Love the ends up, the ends the same way I can’t trust the ends
But home is where the heart is so I’m stayin’ right here
Despite the recent controversy arising when his PR team sprayed over Joy Divisions’ Ian Curtis mural for the promotion of his debut – which actually promotes the opposite of his ‘born in Manchester’ homecoming ethos for Close to Home, mind – it’s worked than any other marketing scheme before it and has allowed those to look up and take notice of the young rapper. Whether they would equally be fans of his new music, is another question entirely.
It’s worth pointing that Aitch quickly apologised and made a statement on the situation: “It’s come to light that the iconic Ian Curtis mural on Port Street has been painted over with my album artwork. This is the first time I’ve heard of this, me and my team are getting this fixed pronto. No way on earth would I want to disrespect a local hero like Ian.“
With all this said though, it’s equally important to not take away from what’s important here. A fitting debut and enticing introduction to the world of Aitch, Close To Home strives to break down the assumptions of uneducated adolescence rapping about the immaterial and talking about the material – the importance of legacy.