Album Review: Potter Payper Excels On ‘Real Back In Style’ Album Debut
12 May 2023
Ten years since the release of ‘Training Day’, Potter Payper has managed to establish himself as an all time great in the world of UK Rap in spite of his prolonged periods of incarceration. His ‘Training Day’ mixtape trilogy saw some of the best rap music to come out of his country, while Potter’s last output, ‘Thanks For Waiting’, experimented with features and different styles of production.
Now after a decade in the game, the East London legend has taken it upon himself to create a debut album that feels like his magnum opus. The title of the project, ‘Real Back In Style’, is a mantra that has become synonymous with the rapper over his storied career. Greater than merely a catchphrase, the artist’s ability to convey his reality with such high levels of emotion and conviction is what makes him one of the best in the world, let alone the UK, and his first foray into the album world more than does justice to the title.
The project kicks off with the anthemic titular track, as Potter sets the tone for the rest of the tape. The production is reminiscent of his ‘2020 Vision Freestyle’, blurring heavy guitar riffs with a warped instrumental on the second verse, giving the rapper a perfect platform to speak his truth. Where the Training Day mixtapes often made use of found beats, this album is bespoke to Potter’s style and showcases his talent across a variety of instrumentals. There is a richness of sound to ‘Quite Befitting’, thanks to the live instrumentation of strings and the saxophone, as well as a more uptempo decadence to the Gospel-tinged ‘Multifaceted’. His link up with Harry Fraud on ‘Track Flocaine’ also feels well overdue, as Potter seems like the closest thing to a UK Griselda member that this country has to offer.
What sets the artist apart from his peers however is his presence behind the microphone. Every bar is spat with authority, as the rapper has an innate ability to express his trials and tribulations with a sense of certainty and emotional depth. There is a ferocity to tracks like ‘Scenes’, and ‘Blame Brexit’, while in other places Potter is not afraid to get introspective. ‘All My Life, If I Had…’ sees the rapper contemplate his heritage, growing up in East London as the son of an Algerian immigrant father and an Irish mother whose dad had ties with the IRA. The artist is also unique in terms of his vocabulary, blurring the slang of the roads with a slice of the East End thanks to his Barking and Dagenham upbringing.
We also find a reprise of his 2018 track, ‘Toy Story’, on ‘Toy Story 2’ – a prime example of Potter’s storytelling talents. This picture-painting prowess is also heard on ‘Money Or Victims’, as the rapper tells a harrowing tale of a childhood friend who was sexually assaulted by her uncle and turned to drugs for solace. Potter not only engrosses the listener with his vivid recollection but also looks inward, navigating the dichotomy between his personal success as a drug dealer and the pain he causes by selling said drugs.
It is refreshing to see no features on this record. While a lot of good can come from collaboration, all too often it feels as if when artists come to the album process they produce a mish-mash of forced features or singles with no clear vision. This project could not be further from this, as Potter has shown he is more than capable of carrying a full length release by himself.
‘Real Back In Style’ therefore feels like the most well rounded Potter Payper project to date and a true contender for album of the year. The Training Day trilogy had already cemented the rapper’s legendary status in UK Rap, but this album sees an elevation in terms of production, while Potter’s pen has more than managed to make the step up to match. It’s a shame that the artist won’t be able to enjoy the fruits of his labour as he is currently serving time, but as he said himself in the build up to the release, “I am who I am, this has always been the way I have grown and changed so much, but I will never not be me.” Regardless of his arrest, this project has the outstanding quality to make a serious impact within our scene. Potter Payper might well be the realest, and he should be treated as such.
Star Rating: 4.5/5