Headie One Succeeds Through Experiment On New Project
3 Oct 2021
‘As real as I can put it, Jealousy is real, loyalty is rare’. These are the first words spoken on Headie One’s newest project, ‘Too Loyal…For My Own Good’. The words are sampled from a speech by former NFL player Trent Shelton, setting the tone in terms of subject matter for a mixtape which sees Headie at his lyrical best. Gliding over a rich blend of diverse instrumentals, there is a comfortability in the North London Rapper’s performances that signals a maturity and growth in his songwriting. Coming off the back of a critically acclaimed first album, ‘Edna’, as well as a stellar performance at this year’s Brit Awards, Headie One is on the precipice of going clear, joining the likes of Dave, Stormzy, and Little Simz as pioneers of a new generation of UK Rap that have potential to translate internationally. This project therefore lays down a marker, as Headie is able to elevate his game in order to cross that line into superstardom.
What is perhaps most striking about this project is the fact there are zero features on this mixtape, something that is beyond a rarity when considering other projects in UK Rap. All too often it feels as if mixtape releases are a chance to get music into streaming playlists of different genres and therefore gain more revenue, rather than focus on making a project that feels cohesive. Obviously, in principle a featured artist is there to add something different to a track, such as an R&B singer on a hook, or a guest verse from a rapper with a different skillset, but on this project the lack of features demonstrate just how far Headie One has come in terms of being a multi-faceted artist. He is able to combine different flows and vocal tones which keep his verses sounding fresh, whilst also getting better at knowing when and where to use melody. There have been times in the past where melody hasn’t come off for Headie, in particular on his experimental tape with Fred Again, yet its use on the new project signifies that the rapper’s experience has allowed him to grow into an artist who can now vary his catalogue with stunning outcomes.
This advancement as an artist has also been helped out by impeccable production across the tape, which only adds to the steady nature of Headie One as he floats effortlessly across a range of beats. There’s a richness of sound which runs through the project and complements the rapper’s style brilliantly, from the cinematic strings on ‘2 Chains’, to Quincy Tellem’s soulful sample on the opening track. The sampling as whole on the project is very impressive and really adds a different dimension sonically. On the Ghosty produced cut, ’Long Night In Knighstbridge’, we can hear a sample from PARTYNEXTDOOR, which moves Headie out of the sonic space of drill music and more into the world of R&B. This is further evident on the song ‘Cry’, which is co produced by Uk R&B kingpin Scribz Riley, and shows Headie has the ability to deliver on both verse and hook, negating the need for featured artists.
Headie One also seems to have taken a leap lyrically whilst staying true to the style that has got him here in the first place. Unsurprisingly when considering the album title, an overarching theme of the project’s subject matter concerns ideas of loyalty and trust. Headie’s blunt choice of vocabulary on these topics also add a more humanising element to his bars, as he raps on ‘Love Me For Me’, ‘Maybe they usin’ me, But this ain’t news to me, How’d you wanna eat food with me?, But you wouldn’t wanna get locked up have to share a loo with me’. Elsewhere, on ‘Satisfy Me’, Headie states, ‘Though the outcome is tragic, done so much I’m proud of I thought I’d be happy, But no’. There is thus a clear juxtaposition for the rapper between his music success and his trauma from the roads, which causes he rapper to be untrusting of those around him. Headie’s lyricism therefore makes for interesting listening, rather than rehashing the clichéd subject matters that have become synonymous with rap and drill.
‘Too Loyal…For My Own Good’ thus feels as if it is the start of a fruitful new chapter for Headie One. The project feels balanced and connected, partially due to the brave decision of not having any features on the tape. The rich and glossy production give the rapper a perfect jumping off point for his own brand of honest and hard hitting bars, and also allow the artist to diversify his musical range. If this is a statement of what’s to come from Headie when looking ahead to his second album, we may well witness the birth of a global star, and fans of the rapper should be very excited.