Loyle Carner is already set to be UK hip-hop’s golden everyman of 2017. After the release of his first widely acclaimed EP ‘A Little Late’ in 2015, Carner has been energetically twitching his way higher into the public consciousness. ‘A Little Late’ is a great introduction into Carner’s heart-on-sleeve lyrical content; the title of the EP relates to his late father and is a six-track tale of the importance of family and his personal loss. ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ is the first full-length release from the London-based and raised rapper, and contains all of Carner’s charm and character within it. It’s production still relies heavily on jazz samples and uses bouncing 808 loops as the framework of which to hang Carner’s flow. The overall backing sound that the album features is the work of Carner’s long-time collaborator and friend Rebel Kleff, who also appears lyrically in both ‘A Little Late’ and ‘Yesterday’s Gone’.
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Carner’s charm principally comes from the way his rap is beautifully and often awkwardly personal. Like in ‘A Little Late’, Carner continues to occupy the Venn Diagram space between spoken word, rap and poetry in ‘Yesterday’s Gone’. Carner has often spoken about his origins in poetry and drama, and these elements are plentifully available in the album. Tracks like ‘Mrs C’ are examples of Carner’s open and honest descriptions of his family life. All the tracks on ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ (and indeed, all of his music) seem to be bursting at the seams with emotion. Whether its love, regret or loss, Carner’s voice seems too often quake under the pressures of his ordinary yet extraordinary life. It may be this element of his persona which seems to resonate with his fans so much. His lyrics embody something we have all experienced; profound meaning in the mundane. His pseudo-poem interlude ‘Florence’ reflects on Carner’s fictional little sister and joyously describes the lazy mornings and late night talks that he longs to have with her.
Production wise, the album is floating and reflective; giving the impression of a twilight walk home in the late summer. Tracks like the awkwardly titled ‘The Seamstress (Tooting Masala)’ amble alongside Carner’s, lyrics as the floating light behind his voice. ‘Florence’ again features lazy Sunday morning vocals from Kwes, slowing down the tempo again to an amble. However, there are occasionally moments of punch and quick-momentum punctuating along the way. Tracks like ‘No CD’ featuring Rebel Kleff on vocals, are made for fun and bounce, with the 808 providing the spring board for both rappers to jump from.
Carner has done it again. He’s managed to balance the tricky tightrope of semi-commercial success, whilst remaining true to his own thoughts and feelings. The 21-year-old is so early in his career, and it will be interesting to see where he will go next. Inevitably, as success and acclaim envelope his professional life, we may see a shift from Carner in the next few years. Until then, ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ can be best summed up by its album art; Carner standing tall amongst his family and friends, with his football and dog in tow.