Nil By Mouth
February 2015 – Self-released
01. Who Am I
02. Get To Know
03. Brainstorming Ft. Briggzy Kapital
04. Home of the Brave
05. Guardian Angel
06. Head or My Heart Ft. Kris Jay
07. Diary of a Prisoner
08. Sletem Know Ft. Illatant Collins
09. Dotting The I’s
10. Know What I’m About
11. Empty The Bottle
In this life we’ve all done wrong, and fucked up in some way or other. This is an almost universal human equivalence. However, since weakness is so commonplace, we are thankfully not judged on the mistake itself, but on our response to it: how it changed individual perspective and personality and, through hard work and application added strength to our character.
This is Raptor‘s first official release, which has been produced in the 12 months since after his own personal indiscretion – the corollary of which led to him spending some time behind bars. Well, those bars with their unavoidable physical sincerity, provided substantial inspiration for his pen, from which has spilt some of the most heartfelt and touching rhymes that I have heard in a long time.
I must admit that going into this review I thought myself desensitised to the notion of an album inspired by a rapper’s time in jail. While short of feeling truly cynical about the idea, I felt that hearing the tale retold again would leave nothing but the most temporary of marks upon me – so it is a true testament to the emotive power and cardiac truth of Raptor’s lyrics that I found myself living inside the experience of this album – and on the verge of empathetic tears several times.
But don’t let my lachrymose tendencies fool you into thinking that this album is soft or cloying in its emotional content; it is hard, stark and as real as gravity. Over cunningly chosen and highly effective samples, Raptor spits with the kind of cold self-reflection only available to a man who knows he has made serious errors in life. Shifting effortlessly between double-time slings and common paced control, he fills his tracks with frenetic and passionate rhymes which always supplicate themselves to the story being told.
The functional and propulsive nature of his language allows the emotional impact in each song to come to the surface and be experienced in a nearly physical way by the listener. This in turn allows you to share in the catharsis that Raptor must have felt during the writing and recording of this album.
Whether through luck, judgement, serendipity or the collision of circumstances, Raptor has created a seriously entertaining and impactful work of art. Art, moreover, that also functions as a banging soundtrack to either contemplation or preparation. The versatile way this album can be applied is down to the direct and soulful production; the samples and beats chosen veer from smooth to acerbic, without sequential tracks ever feeling abrasive in their proximity.
But regardless of the quality of the music selected, the propulsive continuity within this record is provided by Raptor, who makes stark and effective use of his thick Mancunian accent as he paints dramatic and occasionally unpleasant pictures of the realities of his life – all of which hammer home the ultimate subtext of this album: that progression and perspective are intimately linked; that speaking with a tough voice doesn’t mean you can’t admit weakness and growing up doesn’t mean giving up.
In fact, the opposite is true; that by being forced to repeatedly contemplate the decisions that led him to jail, Raptor gained the self-possession and commitment to turn talent into substance – and you know what? It is a singularly impressive substance that has held up to repeat listenings without losing any weight of punch or any layers of its compelling aura.
Everyone’s had the experience of sitting alone in a pub and being latched onto by someone who a story of woe and redemption that they feel compelled to share with you. Most of the time these interactions are discomforting and awkward, but every now and then someone’s story and their personality within delivery has the ability to captivate the imagination, and simply through the telling of their story, they enhance not only your day, but your life as we all step together onto the blank page of unwritten perpetuity.
Nil By Mouth is one of those stories.