Tottenham-born rapper Wretch 32 may have only just emerged on most people radar, yet the man has been surfing the music scene for the past five years, rapping with the likes of Ghetts, Devlin and Cell 22 in the process. Hailing from the notorious Tiverton Estate you could almost expect an album of social and political commentary, being released so soon after the recent riots. We instead get something very different.
The harmonious operatic break on title track and album opener is our first example of the real star of the album, the (sporadically) first-rate production. Future Cut, Maiday, Paul Heard and Nutty P occasionally do great jobs at supporting Wretch on the album. It isn't until you delve deeper into the album that you discover that, unfortunately, Wretch has fallen foul to the weak sounds of tasteless, smoothed out R&B sounds that really don't suit his style at all.
First single 'Traktor' does exemplify one of the better parts of the album, particularly with the 'Misirlou' sampling verses. Lyrically the single gives the listener a glance through the looking glass into Wretch's own life, he's a man who, after dropping out of school had no job prospects, a daughter on the way and a talent that he was determined to stand by. Call it a stubborn outlook but he has definitely proven his worth with his nonconformist style on the lead single alone.
It's almost ignominious then that the album just seems to get progressively worse as the album advances. 'I'm Not the Man', 'Anniversary' and 'Don't Go' are just a few illustrations of when the album comes across as over emotional and so tacky it's almost ridiculous that they appear on the same album as the grinding 'Traktor'. The only thing that goes through my mind when listening to these songs is; "didn't this guy use to be a grime MC?"
As well as this, it really is a shame to see him rely so much on supporting artists, because even on some of the less impressive tracks, 'Please Don't Go' and the 'Fool's Gold' sampling 'Unorthodox' he makes some pretty impressive pop-rap songs that are very listenable indeed. Blame it on poor guidance or just a plain lack of confidence in his own talent, but it's almost as if he gives up on making a continuously decent album.
In a world where the likes of Tinie Tempah and Chipmunk (who makes a guest on the album) represent the UK Hip-Hop scene, Wretch 32 does come across as a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately though it is more of a gasp than a full gulp of air. His style is unorthodox compared to most mainstream rappers, the most unorthodox thing about him is that a self-confessed hip-hop purist can almost bear to listen to him for a full album without getting too irritated, it's the supporting cast that's irritating.
On the whole the album is confused and Wretch seems to lack confidence in his own ability, relying on rehashed and soppy R&B choruses and guest verses. The few times when the album really shines is on the tracks where Wretch firmly takes centre stage, the title track, 'Traktor' and bonus track, 'Breath (Sha La La)' are easily the highlights of an otherwise lacklustre album. So here's hoping that Wretch sticks to himself in the future and he 'Don't Go' let his number one single go to his head!