A renaissance is blooming in the UK music scene.
Artistic innovation and creativity emerged from the chaos of Brexit and the normalcy-shattering pandemic. From Shoegaze to Trip Hop and Grime, the United Kingdom is responsible for some of the most innovative music of the past few decades and the 2020s look no different.
In London, young artists are redefining alternative music and invoking an incredibly diverse group of artists before them for inspiration. Contemporary Jazz and Neosoul artists like Tom Misch and Jordan Rakei paint impressionistic portraits of their life experiences in the UK.
Their work exists in the nexus between Jazz, R/B, Hip Hop and Soul, but even those labels feel too restrictive for the music that they are making. Their sound defies categorization and implores you to bob your head along without trying too hard to put them in any particular box. These musicians often tap Loyle Carner for his silky flow and candid delivery — he sounds like he was made for smooth guitar and laid-back funk beats. Loyle Carner and Tom Misch are extremely complimentary and produce incredible music every time they collaborate.
The brilliance of this corner of the UK music scene has been acknowledged by some of the most revered artists from the States, including underground production legend Madlib. Last year, Loyle Carner and Madlib collaborated on the single “Yesterday” which features both of them at their best. Carner sounds confident and comfortable on the characteristically fire Madlib beat.
“It’s LC and Madlib its MadLoyle”
Another voice reaching out from London is Bakar, the genre-defying songwriter who is bridging the gap between Alternative, Punk, Rap, and a range of other genres.
Bakar grew up in North London and you can hear the coalescence of the musical influences of his youth in his own work. Bakar is just as capable of gliding over the bubbliest R/B instrumental as he is at delving into the dark, hazy loops of artists like King Krule. He has a wide stylistic range that’s present in all of the music that he has released so far. Bakar just released an album, Nobody’s Home, which has been met with praise from fans and critics alike. It is truly a remarkable body of work as it manages to capture many of the complexities of coming of age in the 21st century. One of my personal favorite albums of 2022. Be sure to check it out.
Bakar has teamed up with various artists since he came onto the scene but some of his most exciting collaborations have been with Dominic Fike and Lancey Foux. You’re likely familiar with Dom Fike from his music or his recent on-screen debut in Euphoria but Lancey Foux should be on your radar as well.
Lancey Foux is one of the most enigmatic forces in music at the moment and draws a culty following akin to Playboi Carti’s fans.
Another London-bred artist, the traditional UK rap influences like Skepta are readily apparent in Foux’s music, but that is not all. These influences are supplemented by American artists like Young Thug who instilled in Foux a vocal volatility and range that sounds unlike anyone else.
But this exciting movement is not limited to London.
A young man named Tyron Frampton, better known as Slowthai, emerged from the somewhat unlikely roots of Northampton and has become a voice for many UK youth, especially those who are disillusioned by the political landscape and social injustice in England. Northampton is far quieter than London and as a result, Slowthai had to grab people’s attention by force. He began making waves with his scathing politically-charged lyrics over aggressive, Punk backing music. Check out one of his most popular tracks “Doorman” to understand his penchant for the grittiest instrumentals. This song almost demands the formation of a sweaty, chaotic mosh pit where kids can find unexpected peace in the therapeutic release of punching and pushing strangers.
Slowthai has received co-signs from several of the greats of the Grime era that preceded him, including Skepta with whom he has collaborated multiple times. Slowthai’s debut album, the iconoclastic “Nothing Great About Britain” was met with critical acclaim, celebrated for the way that it illuminated social justice issues in England, like the housing and healthcare crises. Slowthai tears into racist and classist institutions, asking questions that most are too scared to pose aloud.