Album Review: Aitch Keeps It ‘Close To Home’ On Full Length Debut
19 Aug 2022
Star Rating: 3.5/5
Baby faced and still at a relatively young age, Aitch has already solidified himself as one of the most influential rappers in the UK at the moment. The Manchester man has built his success off his cheeky, brash persona, stemming back from his scene stealing performance on Tion Wayne and Russ Millions’ ‘Keisha Becky’ remix. It is too easy however to purely look at this moment as the starting point of the rapper’s career, when there are clear examples of his prodigious talent stretching all the way back to Risky Roadz freestyle cyphers. His latest release and first album, ‘Close To Home’, is the first time in Aitch’s discography that he has allowed himself to be introspective and vulnerable at times, culminating in some of his best music to date.
The opening track, ‘Belgrave Road’, sets the tone for the rest of the project, as it is the first glimpse of a more humble, thoughtful Aitch, who is comfortable with opening up more than we have seen before. On this track he speaks about the negative impacts of splitting up with his ex-girlfriend and the falseness he is surrounded by in the industry. What makes this track stand out however is the way that the artist is able to navigate these topics without getting bogged down in them, breaking up dense subject matters with clever one liners, such as, ‘You know the bando in Manny? Really bees in the trap.’ There is a real feeling of maturation on this project, and the more Aitch is able to feel comfortable offering different facets of his personality, the more the quality of his music will continue to grow.
There are further risks taken on the instrumental side of the album, leading to Aitch experimenting with new sounds and different genres. There is a nod to his Manchester roots with the Stone Roses sample on ‘1989’, and the skits at the end of tracks throughout the project hark back to Aitch’s youth in the 0161, all demonstrating the rapper’s love and attachment to his home city. There are forays into a more Trap style on ‘Money Habits’ with Mastermind, while the rapper is certainly following Drake’s outro blueprint with the instrumental on ‘Holinwood to Hollywood’. The quality of the instrumentals have pushed Aitch to new heights. You only have to listen to his second verse on ‘Bring It Back’ to realise that the artist is far more than a ‘Pop-Rapper’ and has the capability to out bar a lot of people in the UK Scene.
The record has a good structure in terms of a variety between solo and featured records. Both Bakar and New Machine impressed on their respective features and push Aitch into a more Alternative landscape, which helps bring a more unique sound to the project than I was expecting. The collaboration with AJ Tracey on the track ‘R Kid’ further highlights the chemistry that the two rappers have together, as the rappers go back to back on both verses and maintain the same level of intensity on the 3 minute cut. ‘My G’, the collaboration with Ed Sheeran, allows Aitch to be at his most vulnerable when opening up about a member of his family, giving a heartfelt moment to the project, although Sheeran’s vocal performance on the hook isn’t the best of his career. Arguably the standout moment on the record however is on the titular track, ‘Close To Home’, where Aitch uses a school choir to introduce the track, before the rapper demonstrates his growth in terms of songwriting by putting in one of his best performances to date.
It is fitting that the titular track offers one of the greatest moments on ‘Close To Home’, as the whole record feels unapologetically rooted in the culture and spirit of Manchester. Aitch has paid homage to those who have come before him and continues to blaze a trail in the mainstream for artists outside of London making it in UK Rap. The record is not perfect, as there are some tracks towards the middle of the album that feel too safe, as Aitch falls back into the same subject matters that we have seen from his previous musical outputs. In particular, tracks like ‘Cheque’, and ‘The Palm’, feel as if they are filler, and could easily be taken out with the album coming in at 16 tracks. Having said this however, there is enough here to suggest that as Aitch continues to grow as an artist and his sound continues to mature, the rapper has a real opportunity to be great in the near future.