Loyle Carner: “hugo” album review: at his most brutally honest


Written by:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Conscientious jazz-rap is never an easy feat to excel at. The lyrical ingenuity is just as important as the butter-melt beats accompanying it…

It takes a good MC to not only perfect both but to continue with consistency across three records. Our man Loyle Carner has been doing just that.

It took a just under 7 months before Carner began to gather a fanbase among lovers of alternative hip-hop. Tierney Terrace/Florence was the first fistful of abrasive lyricism that we saw from the British MC in 2015. Slowly but surely, that tepid enthusiasm turned into intriguing curiosity. Almost as if we stumbled across a golden nugget among cobwebbed jazz-rap vinyl crates amongst the buried deep, we began to wonder where we had been all this time. When the early 2017 album of Yesterday’s Gone was nominated for a Mercury prize, that’s when we really began to feel how far behind we actually were.

Released on the 21st this month, hugo is his next truth-serum soundscape as he portrays his angst towards racism, forgotten time and adolescent childhood. He shares retrospective thoughts on his difficult upbringing, almost as an ode to his newborn he has recently brought into the world:

“{I think} it was linked with the birth of my son where I kind of finally felt like I had to completely be honest. And be a true reflection of myself, unashamedly, and not be afraid of what people would think and the judgement I might get […] because I needed my son to grow up and know that it was okay to be, you know, for there to be beauty in the ugliness, for it to be okay, and yeah, not perfect.

Loyle Carner opening up about ‘hugo’

What ultimately sets Carner apart from other like-minded MC Brits, is his abrasive tact to deliver brutally honest lyrics; totally unreserved and totally justified. This comes in waves as we traverse the bumpy ride-along of hugo. Hate was the first powerful track and the first blistered insight into Carner’s next emotive project. A refreshing sound still hunkering on Carner’s YG presence, is a car-crash stinger, all the more jarring when we take a look at his words; “Yeah, ’cause we’ve been living like a trap/Putting numbers on the wall, hoping people would react/But it’s a fact, we’ve been living in a trap, we’re trapped.”

//”because I needed my son to grow up and know that it was okay to be, you know, for there to be beauty in the ugliness..” Drawn from T.L Barrett sample, “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” we lead on with melodically-triumphant Nobody Knows (Ladas Road), a personal insight into Carner’s struggle growing up without a father as he comes to terms with being mixed race, not being accepted by either all, I told the Black man he wouldn’t understand / I reached the white man, he wouldn’t take my hand. It’s followed with more slackened-jazz inspired, Georgetown, as he draws points on ethnicity and the freedom pen to paper brought for his rapping. Setting the tone with the first uttered, Is the world moving fast for you as well? Speed of Plight is a stand-out on the album for its hypnotic instrumentation and ooze of preservation it portrays. We are then transitioned to the more lo-fi timbre of alternative hip-hop with Homerton, as he starts to ponder what kind of legacy he may leave to the world…and to his boy.

A de-shelling on knife violence, Blood on My Nikes is his at his most brutally harrowing, almost as if washing blood off is a normal routine. Led by haunting instrumentals, it drives hugo down a dark turn as we pass the half way mark. The last four stops, Plastic, A Lasting Place, Polyfilla and HGU drive home the point of finding beauty in the ugliness, as beautiful rhetorics contort into something evil on every other line. Equally compelling in their own right, the laid-back grooves draw in relaxing vibes, but the lyrics tell a different story.

When I was younger, yo, I wanted to be famous
Now that I’m older, yo, I wish that I was nameless
Yeah, the world’s aimless, no one gives a fuck
Time’s of the essence, I was running out of luck

Getting stuck for a couple bucks, tryna bust a nut
Filling up my plate but wasn’t filling up your cup
Yo, I say it’s fucked, they even killed the Wolverine

Polyfilla, hugo

The beautiful laid-back instrumentations of Kofi Stone with the truthful lyrical impact of Little Simz, brings up Loyle Carner as a masterful apprentice at work; seeking to deliver works that one day, can be seen as nothing but timeless classics. hugo is the mighty drawing board for just that.

Stand-outs: Hate, Love of Plight, Blood on my Nikes, A Lasting Place

One response to “Loyle Carner: “hugo” album review: at his most brutally honest”

  1. OUR TWENTY BEST ALBUMS OF 2022… – mvm. avatar
    OUR TWENTY BEST ALBUMS OF 2022… – mvm.

    […] A retrospective pondering to the mark of jazz rap soundscapes. This is hugo. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Latest Stories

%d bloggers like this: