At the time of writing, the face of Harrison Armstrong – higher referred to as Aitch – stares down from bus shelters round Britain promoting Lynx deodorant. You may snigger at this improvement in the event you like – it’s hardly Jay-Z endorsing luxurious Swiss watches – but it surely’s value noting that not each multi-platinum US rapper offers solely in high-end merchandise: in addition to selling Balenciaga, Megan Thee Stallion not too long ago recorded a monitor shilling Cheetos, the American equal of turning into the glamorous face of Wotsits. Furthermore, it tells you one thing in regards to the unfold of UK rap and the place Armstrong presently occupies in British youth tradition: there was a time, earlier than Skepta and Stormzy, when a rapper with a Mancunian accent would have gotten no additional than a tiny native label. As we speak, if you wish to attain a giant market of odiferous adolescent boys, Aitch, with a string of Prime 10 hits to his title – 5 of them platinum sellers – may be very a lot your man.
A person who final 12 months did a photoshoot within the former headquarters of Manufacturing facility Information, Aitch has described his debut album Near Residence as “100,000% a correct Manchester album”. A rumoured collaboration with Liam Gallagher is nowhere to be seen, however Shaun Ryder’s voice booms out between tracks (as does that of certainly one of Aitch’s administration workforce, calling him “a knobhead” for failing to supply receipts for his bills). His music 1989 samples the Stone Roses’ Fools Gold and pays homage to Madchester’s annus mirabilis in its title, if not its lyrics. The duvet is by Matt Carroll of Central Station Design, the corporate greatest identified for designing the Pleased Mondays’ album sleeves, who has been fast to position Aitch in a lineage of “nice wordsmiths from Manchester’s previous” – together with not simply Ryder, however John Cooper Clarke. These comparisons are pushing it a bit: you possibly can nearly make a case for a similarity between Aitch’s nasal supply and that of Cooper Clarke, although there’s none of Ryder’s drugged-out surrealism about his lyrical strategy. However Aitch’s lyrics are undoubtedly at their most putting after they abandon the standard-issue stuff about trapping within the bandos to root themselves in his residence city, whether or not hymning household ties on R Child or mistily recalling a youth spent “smoking within the alley and shopping for singles from a shabby gaff”. “Again then I needed to Rusholme in the event you grew up in Moston,” he recollects in a neat little bit of wordplay on Cash Habits.
Whereas Aitch is reliably dispiriting and cliched as regards to intercourse (he’s going to “put that pussy to sleep”, she’s “getting nasty within the trip”, and so on), presumably that’s the sort of factor the Lynx Epic Recent huge need to hear. In equity, he’s fairly sharp on different subjects, not least the title monitor’s exploration of the stress between his roots and success, the push and pull between his love of residence (“I acquired Manny in my core”) and the idea that “at this level, staying native’s only a massive mistake”. Flipping the usual hip-hop narrative of complaining that fame makes everybody round you deal with you in a different way, he means that it’s really him that’s modified, not the oldsters again in Moston.
The manufacturing, in the meantime, leaps round in every single place, engaged within the act of masking bases with blended outcomes: trap-influenced beats on Deliver It Again and Cheque, pop R&B on Child, a kids’s choir on the title monitor. Full with a visitor look from Bakar, the nice In Disguise sounds not not like Gorillaz, whereas My G includes a flip from Ed Sheeran at his most nondescript, redeemed by the evidently heartfelt and shifting lyric addressed to Aitch’s youthful sister, who has Down’s syndrome. The music 1989 was a noticeably smaller hit than Child, with its sped-up Ashanti samples: maybe a 33-year-old Stone Roses single is simply too previous, too locked in its authentic period, for a teenage viewers. Actually, it isn’t a sign of its high quality: overlaying the previous John Squire riff with Theme from Shaft horns and vocals that sound as if they’ve stepped off an previous rave monitor. In purely musical phrases it could be the album’s greatest monitor, though the cut-up Spanish guitar of The Palm runs it shut.
For all his success, at 22, you get the sensation that Aitch remains to be understanding his identification, testing the water to see how far he can draw back from the usual UK rap template with out alienating its core viewers. The result’s an album that’s alternately charming and cliched, that entails boilerplate beats and sparky musical invention. That mentioned, nothing about it’s going to flip off the kids that represent Aitch’s fanbase. “I ain’t going wherever,” he says on the album’s conclusion. He’s referring to Manchester, but it surely may simply as simply be a reference to his present standing.
This week Alexis listened to
flowerovlove – Get With You
Completely turned, quick however candy alt-rock that avoids the cliches from a 16-year-old hailing from south London.