tue 21/11/2017

CD: Nadia Rose - Highly Flammable | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Nadia Rose - Highly Flammable

CD: Nadia Rose - Highly Flammable

Croydon rapper's debut is fresh, funny and full of attitude

Nadia Rose: Tupac meets St Trinian's

The flaming pigtails say it all. More St Trinian’s than gangsta, the 23-year-old Croydon rapper Nadia Rose presents (mostly) the lighter side of South London street life. Despite a less than incendiary last place in the BBC’s recent Sound of 2017 competition, Rose had already captured enough attention for Highly Flammable to catch fire with “Boom” and “Station”, 2015’s two feisty singles. They were both a bit rough round the edges but throbbing with the sort of attitude that captures an audience.

That attitude is summed up by the video of “Station”, which was shot with Rose rapping on the tracks as a train lumbered into view in the background. OK, it was Southern Rail, so the chance of something moving at dangerous speed was low. But it still had to be shot first take, before security shut the cameras down. Part teen prank, part protest action, it’s the essence of Rose’s wit and iconoclasm. “Boom”, a mash-up of a party video, re-purposes a familiar social situation to vivid, sometimes hilarious effect.

Lasting success will need tenderness and vulnerability, as well as clever, ballsy defiance

There are few surprises on Highly Flammable (an EP rather than a full album) but that’s fine, because for an emerging star, more attitude and humour are exactly what fans want. It’s brimming with confidence, verbal dexterity and (tongue-in) cheek: consensus below the line is already that Lady Leshurr’s position as queen of British rap is threatened. “Skwod” (ie squad, about her posse) already has its own video, which, like her existing work, verges on pantomime. But, as in a children’s comic melodrama, the momentum of the jokes and visual slapstick (the policeman is especially silly) are compelling enough that viewers don’t have time to question the absurdity.  

A couple of the songs (“2H2H” - “too hot to handle” – and “U Know What”) don’t really go anywhere, but several more, especially “Tight Up” and “Skwod”, pack a lot of intricate dialogue and drama into their three-odd minutes. And even when she’s not saying much, she does it cleverly. Musically, there’s nothing unexpected going on, but the effects, like the lyrics, are full of humour and energy. “Poltergeist” and “Puddycat” both have plenty of scope for fairly obvious fun with the FX settings.   

Rose feels like such a breath of fresh air, but she’s not a complete outsider. Music runs in the family. Her father is a south London DJ, and her cousin the grime star Stormzy. Producer Tiana Rochelle, aka The Black Obsidian, is a friend. Fans won’t mind as long as she continues to entertain. However, fun as these songs are, they don’t dig very deep. Lasting success will need tenderness and vulnerability, as well as clever, ballsy defiance.

@matthewwrighter

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