Over half a decade since the release of his last album, UK rapper Tinchy Stryder has finally released a follow up. Moving on from 2010s Third Strike, this record sees Tinchy move closer towards his roots; where Third Strike was a largely pop-orientated album (with the only exception being the cypher-style Game Over), 360/The Cloud 9 LP is an album of two halves. Born as Kwasi Danquah, Tinchy has always dabbled in both grime and pop music, and this album sees him showcase both sides on one double disc, 14-track LP.
The first seven tracks are the more pop leaning tunes. Produced largely by Pinky & The Brain, Alex E and Rymez, and with guest vocals from Bayke and Tanika, this half alone is more dynamic than his entire previous album. Where the pop on Third Strike seemed heavily geared towards club-ready, crowd-pleasing anthems, here Tinchy seems more self-assured. Fired Up is an interesting song, beginning with 60s-style electric guitar picking, ending with auto tuned R&B adlibs, and complete with a healthy dollop of amped-up British hip-hop sandwiched between. Lost In Warfare is a pop classic, remindful of Tinie Tempah circa 2010 with its melodious hook led by Tanika, and mechanical, almost dance orientated synths under Tinchy’s pointillistic flow.
As you move down the track listing to the grime half, Tinchy makes no attempt to ease you in slowly. Instantly submerging you in a pool of dark, gritty beats, the first song Allow Me also features grime pioneer JME, delivering a potent verse on lack of privacy. As well as JME, the Cloud 9 half of this record sees an admirable array of collaborations including Giggs and D Double E. The latter features on Leg Day, a track full of groovy grime attitude, the syncopated drums giving it a raw, yet classic appeal that fits perfectly with the addition of grime veteran D Double E.
By no means a bad album, 360/The Cloud 9 LP delivers some classic sounds. However of these classics, some will be welcomed with open arms (or ears) as nostalgic gems, like the sharp, scrappy early grime throwback sounds of Gunfingers. But songs like upper half closer Name On The Trophy, or the misguided sound of Dem 1z leave me wondering who the audience will be for sounds such as these in 2016. Not to be described as bad, but some of this albums songs present themselves as slightly unmarketable in the present day. Regardless of its shortcomings though, the album is a refreshing update on its predecessor, and its defining songs are a definite triumph for modern day grime.