Exclusives 14 June 2021
Author: Joe Simpson

GRM Exclusive: Why we must give A2 the genre blending genius his flowers

14 June 2021
A2 Album review

A2 has been an enigmatic figure in the UK rap scene for as long as he’s been around. Since the start of his career the South Londoner has been elusive, allowing his music to do the talking instead of what has become the norm in terms of having a strong social media presence and playing the games of the music industry. The rapper, once signed to Tinie Tempah’s Disturbing London record label as well as contributing to the legendary New Gen mixtape, has stated that his latest release, Just So You Know, will be his last contribution to music, citing mental exhaustion as the reasoning for his ride into the sunset. If this is the case, A2 has left behind him a body of work that is demonstrative of his musical talent and has sonic variety, allowing the artist to go out at the very pinnacle of his career. 

A2 has managed to carve out his own niche in terms of the type of music he creates, as the variety of his influences has allowed him to create unique soundscapes that cannot be categorised under the umbrella of UK Rap. Having been influenced by the likes of So Solid Crew and cutting his teeth on grime radio sets, the rapper is able to combine this ferocity with a more spacious, introspective R&B sound that breaks the glass ceiling of any one genre. This is furthered by A2 being a triple threat, combining succinct and emotive bars with delicate vocals, as well as a penchant for production. The rapper produces three cuts on this 11 track record, including the first track, “Akolades“, where A2 uses a sample cleverly to announce to the listener that he is deserving of recognition, and it is difficult to argue otherwise owing to the quality of the music across this album. 

The Croydon artist is able to move seamlessly between the trap explosiveness of a track such as “Lavish Freestyle”, to a more R&B inspired, soulful cut on “Midsummer Misery”, which is backed up by an ethereal soundscape on the instrumental. This merging of styles and juxtaposing the smooth with the distorted, as can be heard on “Ideal”, creates a transformative soundscape that makes the album a multi-faceted and complete body of work. 

A2 uses this unique style to move between asserting himself as a heavy hitter in the rap genre, to painting pictures of love and romance on the slower cuts across the album. It is telling on the outro of “I Must Admit” as to where the rapper places himself in the hierarchy of UK artists, as he states, ‘I am me, unapologetically, one of one, protecting my energy just like the sun, don’t ever put my name next to anything that ain’t special’. There is thus a sense that if this is to be the rapper’s ultimate body of work, he wants those listening to understand his talent in an attempt to cement his legacy. 

“Lavish Freestyle” sees A2 at his fierce best, combining a multitude of flows with clever braggadocios bars. It is therefore all the more impressive that he is able to slow down this pace and open his heart on the more mellow tracks across the record. “Torondon” and “Moon and Sea” , as well as “Not Mine” stand out as prime examples of this, as the rapper is able to convey his emotions effortlessly through his melancholic vocal tones. I think it is fair to say that with A2, you should not come in expecting a swarm of metaphors and double entendres, yet instead he is able to convey his message through the way he vocalises his bars. 

The two features on this album come towards the back end, with Fee Gonzales taking the reins on the final track, “Don’t Change”. This collaboration sees two South London rappers trading verses, as Gonzales brings a wave hook that allows A2 to close out the album with a stellar verse. One of the highlights of the album however comes from the collaboration with Etta Bond on “No Rush”. The two have already shown their chemistry on a previous track, “Surface”, and this rapport has shown no signs of weakening on the new track. Bond’s vocals accompanied by a delicate instrumental compliment the rapper perfectly, creating a genre merging ballad that is an outstanding moment on the album.

If this is A2’s last dance in terms of musical output, he leaves in the same way he came in, as his listeners will certainly be wanting more after this tantalising release. His combination of musical styles owing to his eclectic influences shines through across the project, while the rapper’s ability to create empathy with his audience by creating dreamy instrumentals and haunting vocals creates a body of work that works as a whole and feels unique. It is a shame to see an artist of A2’s calibre step away from music, and it almost feels that the culture has failed to champion an artist with such talent. However, Just So You Know has allowed A2 to step away at the top of his game, and his influence on the next generation of UK musicians should not be underestimated.