This week saw Kano take to Charlie Sloth‘s infamous Fire In The Booth show and drop one of the most impressive freestyles we have heard on the 1Xtra show. While Charlie himself called it “The Best Fire In The Booth So Far“, many online started polls on which FITB was better – Kano or Wretch. But this debate acts as a disservice to other artists who have stepped to the mic and put in impressive performances. While we could on for ages talking about Akala‘s trilogy of sessions, or Lowkey using the FITB platform to deliver a powerful social commentary, what about the young artists who have come through Charlie’s doors in 2016 already. We take a look at 5 of the best* who have shown that while Kano‘s hype is throughly deserved, there is a whole heap of talent out of there. So “LETS GET READY TO RUMBLEEEEE!!!!!”
1. Isaiah Dreads – January 2nd
“Dreaming with a wish, while you’re teaching me this. Give me 5 years and you’ll see me at the BRITS“.
18 year old grime artistIsaiah Dreads was the first to take on FITB in the new year. The Dorset rapper tackled two instrumental from grime legend Flukes [‘I Have Nothing‘ and ‘I Need You‘] and used the spotlight to speak about his early influences in grime, namedropping Skepta and Wiley. His pacy flow packed with punchlines and creative wordplay [“People want to be Drake, but don’t wanna ‘Take Care’“] keeps the energy high throughout as Isaiah barely looked to take a breath for the first 4 minutes. For a young artist, his confidence shines through and is reflected in his manner on the microphone. His retrospective side comes across in the second half, touching on topics from relationships, females and money [“Living with your mum rocking Yves Saint, paying no rent“]. This FITB performace, plus his Gimme Grime freestyle with DJ Cameo shows that he one to watch for the future.
2. Aystar – February 6th
“I’m reppin for my city because it’s slacking for rappers. Because most of the real cats can’t rap, there some trappers”
Liverpool has a lot of rap heritage and Aystar looks certain to build on that, largely in part to his successful turn on FITB back in early February. While many know him from his time in USG alongside K Koke and Geko, the young rapper is clearly on a mission. The introduction and ensuing 64 or so seem to come naturally to Aystar, as his laidback persona makes his delivery seem effortless. This is not to say that his bars lack substance, because they don’t and Aystar speaks on a snapshot of modern life for UK youth [“Instead were on the roads risking our freedom trying to get this thing regardless“]. At the half way point, Aystar hits a pacier flow over a Altosound instrumental, dropping a more aggressive flow as the centres on violence, gangs and gun crime [“I got shot, seen a big slug in my rib. I thought what a little tit, how you miss and hit the kid“]. Over a hypnotic piano outro, Aystar shine through and shows that an accent doesn’t make the rapper, the rapper makes the accent.
3. Nafe Smallz – February 20th
“I ain’t got time for a part time, I’m working on an anthem”
Nafe Smallz is a unique artist outright. His blend of UK rap and trap blends with his autotuned vocals, creating a sound that is not really being showcased this side of the atlantic. While this is impressive, it can be hard to convert that to a credible live freestyle such as FITB. But Nafe Smallz proved many wrong, including me, when he took to the 1Xtra show in late Febraury. The Luton artist switches from rapping to crooning, speaking on girls, drugs and a party lifestyle which stays infectious throughout [“This papers like Satan in disguise,but still I’ll be chasing mine“]. While the first 3 minutes play out like an unreleased Future demo with Charlie commenting “I ain’t ever heard anything like that in the booth before“, the second half allows Nafe to let loose a little and drops more of your convential “rap freestyle”. While the topics are what you’d expect, the style and way it is presented is different by Nafe makes it more consumable and potentially commercially viable.
4. AJ Tracey – February 27th
“Im too lightskinned, I could get never get dumped”
AJ Tracey has been name dropped by many as one of the next generation of stars set to shine in the UK grime scene. So it came as no surprise when he came through and ripped it up for his debut FITB. It’s clear of the passion and drive that AJ possesses as he fires out the gates, dropping a fast flurry of lyrics over an amped up grime infused instrumental [“He spits the same flow every time he does a track. Half white but he acts so black“]. In his first 32, he asks a number of questions, only to answer them, showing his originality when writing and creativity with lyrics. Not afraid to challenge himself, AJ takes on Twista‘s ‘Overnight Celebrity‘ instrumental, delivering his own authentic tone and somewhat turning the track into his anthem. Doubling up bars, AJ packs in so many metaphors, punchlines and wordplay into just one 16 [“Learnt that I should never watch no face so I only wanna look at myself just like selfies“]. Finally, AJ flows over Drake‘s ‘Summer Sixteen‘ and as well as delivering a barrage of lyrics, shows his maturity through a positive mic pressence, ensuring his clarity is on point!
5. Dave – March 5th
As mentioned in the intro, many have used the FITB platform to deliver a social commentary on modern UK life and offer a snapshot of reality through their lyrics [honourable shoutouts to Akala, Lowkey and Mic Righteous]. So it seems we have come full circle with the latest Fire In The Booth featuring South London rapper Dave. While his age is really not an issue [Dave is only 17 years old], it’s amazing to see how much wisdom and knowledge the young man has and is able to articulate through his raps. He starts off almost frustrated with the system and this frustration fuels his passion to succeed [“It was you who gave him drugs and a knife. It was you, it was you. Now you’re pissed because he caught another case“]. Rapping over The Eagles 1976 hit ‘Hotel California‘ [you may recognise Frank Ocean‘s ‘American Wedding‘ more], he speaks on the influence of his mum and her support in his chosen carrer path [“My mum she taught me to be self sufficient, she always said to put power in yourself, she shared her hours and her wealth“]. The future is bright for Dave and this FITB is just the start.
* The list is not in ranked order, but chronologically