Nothing is certain with Young Fathers. Their genre-bending stripe of UK rap is a beast with more red herrings and redirections than is honestly possible to follow. While some might see this misleading disposition as the catalyst for their engaging character, ‘DEAD’ is the full-length that proves that Young Fathers aren’t here to trick us in to a false sense of security. This is a trio of young men carrying a childlike ethos of one-shot ambition and widely sourced influence. It’s an album of sentiment, liveliness and unbounded vision.
Highlights of the LP come in the form of tracks like ‘Low’ and ‘MMMH MMMH’. When the bass rests comfortably underneath lyrics that are bold and catching. “Let the engine run / Let the engine run”, this vigor isn’t always pretty or easy on the ear (especially on the cluttered crescendo of ‘MMMH...’) but it’s the sound of youthfulness and spirit. The record doesn’t come without hooks either. ‘Dip’ not only succeeds in dispelling the common thought that the sound of a British person rapping is little more than a sonic throwback to a time when Burberry meant shoplifting rather Dalston, but it has a flowing clear melody and an ethereal grace that transcends the blindly pointed “alt-rap” label that YF are so often stuck with.
The swollen flow that delivers lines like “Revenge is a dish best served cold / Like ice cold with an ice pick and a blind fold” are yet another road-sign in a different direction from Young Fathers. There maybe a sense of rebirth that runs through ‘DEAD’ but it is often shot down by thematic nods to the record’s title. The bass-line that clutches on to ‘Hangman’ is perhaps the most sinister and forbidding moment on the album as violent orders are barked on top of an ominous cocktail of choral backing vocals and organic sounding beats. There is a superabundance of influences at play on ‘DEAD’ but the finished product isn’t a manic collage, it’s far more refined concoction that points forward a lot more than it points back.
‘DEAD’ is the mongrel son of Young Fathers’ varied influences and the soundtrack to a form of youthfulness that is unpolished, uneven and harsh. It breaks your nose then sends a voluptuous nurse to get you cleaned up. It’s wise-beyond it’s years whilst appearing thrillingly clueless throughout. Even if Young Fathers are trying to trick you in to going somewhere else, it won’t be somewhere you’ve seen before.
Words: Duncan Harrison