Last week one of the UK’s most influential independent record labels Alwayz Recording, released 2015’s highly anticipated project, AR15 ‘Concrete Jungle’.
Featuring over 50 UK artists over the space of 15 tracks, ‘Concrete Jungle’ is not only a musical master piece it’s also a display of unity which sheds light on homegrown talent.
What the two labels have done is something many would of thought too difficult to endeavour; bringing together a wide mixture of UK talent from the so called mainstream, the new generation, the pioneers to successful underground Independents. Forming an impressive cohesive album with a message.
Earlier in the year we got a clue of what was to come when Section Boyz kicked off the campaign reminding us that “Trappin Ain’t Dead”.
Despite what the artists and their status’ are at this current time, the one thing they all have in common and share is the experiences of rising out of the ‘Concrete Jungle’ to make a better life for themselves through music.
From living in a rough council estate to having to hustle to provide, some express the perks of making it out while others vent on hardships and situations that they’ve encountered.
In June, Wretch 32, Swiss, Devlin and Rebecca Garton gave a live studio performance of “Helpless” on Not For The Radio. While this track was already garnering attention on the airwaves, their performance piece gave more of an insight visually and sonically to those who were unaware of the versatility that the AR15 project would present.
A day before the release the AR15 team set fire to the internet when Young Spray and Blade Brown came out with a visual for “F*ck Them N*ggas”.
So as I listened from track one to fifteen I never felt the need to skip; the combination of powerful and at times, melodic hooks, along with the imagery portrayed by each lyricist allowed the listener to paint their own picture of the ‘Concrete Jungle’. The message in the music resonating throughout.
While I wish I could speak on every track I’ve narrowed down to 5 bangers from the 15 that you need to pay attention too.
1) “Can’t See Me Again”
Featuring 3 of Grimes pioneers; North London’s Skepta, North West London’s Bashy and East London’s very own Kano, “Can’t See Me Again” sets the tone for the project. This track explains that the transition from illegal to legal hustle can be made.
Produced by Nana Rogues, Skepta kicks of his verse by putting his own twist on fellow BBK Member Frisco’s lyric, “I used to smile in pictures but the ends changed me”. Skeppy speaks on the sacrifices he went through to protect and provide for his family looking for a better solution, which the chorus clearly echoes.
Bashy took a similar approach starting his verse with his own rendition of D Double E’s “It’s me again”, letting the listener know that over the course of his 10 year rise to the top he’s sticking with his day ones. The instrumental switches through the verse to a soft R&B break down; sitting nicely on the grimey trap beat with Bish Bash Bosh reminiscing on what could of happened vs what has actually happened.
Kano immediately dropped the question “Why would I want to open a box and play deal or no deal in the ends?” Which is true as KA reminds us his musical CV is no joke. We have watched him go from the streets to the screen, whether it’s the Benzo advert, shelling down pirate radio sets or touring the party islands. We are reminded that hard work really does pays off.
While “Amen” which features Prince, Snap Capone, Young Adz and Corleone is another personal favourite along with “Concrete Jungle” featuring Ratlin, Chunks and Ghost Dan, I feel I have to elaborate on “Better Just Know”.
Featuring Young Spray, Tempa T, Frisco and Big Chess this track is straight Crudd served with Hype provided by Tempa T on the chorus going in with his Grime flow over Nana Rogers Trap beat. With the mixture of Grime emcees and UK rappers flowing of a neutral BPM tempo is not a issue as each verse holds weight take a listen, I’m sure this will be going off in clubs soon.
Straight after that follows a uptempo banger which sees the currently incarcerated Sqeeks, Jet Ski Waves Sneakbo, Dubz aka Double up Dubz, The #Problem Stromzy and the wordsmith Mr Bigz for ‘Out The Jungle’.
With each lyricist coming from different areas of London they each speak on how it goes down in their jungle, this track pops off simply due to the different flows each artist presents in their verse. Wordplay, comedy, flows this track has it all.
Now when it comes to gaining a real feel for how costly this road life can be ‘We Pray’ touches your musical soul, the piano chords set the mood as vocalist Prince gives the reality of the situation on the chorus on instrumental he co produced with Remi. P Dubz is reminiscent of his past touching on police issues and becoming more focused. Skrapz gives you the perception of the trap life many don’t hear about but endure, when he says ‘Trapping ain’t cool i do it because i have to, daughter saying daddy why you always in a tracksuit?, doing this for you baby girl il be back soon, you and your little sister soon get a bigger bedroom’ .
While the flash cars, big chains and being surround by female models is a perception of what the hustle can bring you, most are just trying to provide and make a better life for their family while attempting to not get caught which you could say its the flip side to the ‘Hunter Gatherer’ attitude. Kyze is no stranger to the street life but like many young men who made mistakes early in life they mange to prove critics wrong to becoming a success and is giving a lesson in the music so the youth can take heed…..for me ‘We Pray’ is one of the best tracks on the project.
While tracks like ‘Running Away’ which features Bekki Hlava, Chunks, Young Teflon and Avelino is another brilliant track, ‘Bando’ which could possibly become the street anthem with Gunna Dee, Calibar, Bonkaz and Ramsey is equally as impressive to the ear but for the fifth and final track of my selection i chose something we all chase ‘Lizzy’.
With Loick Essien on chorus duties the verses are occupied by Fuzay, Ghetts and Yungen, we all need money but some have a hunger inside them to get as much as they can as quick as they can and get out of the hood. With each emcee open about playing russian roulette with their freedom in the past, you have to admire what they have achieved coming from deprived circumstances where most young men and women who commit crime just end up another statistic.
Shouts to Alwayz Recordings Baff, and GB Records label boss Tommy Bones, for unifying majority of the UK scene. With the debate on is Grime Uk Hip Hop ?or is Uk Hip Hop Grime ? will continue to be spoke about, its refreshing to see that a ‘Genre’ did not hold back this wonderful work by the two labels. Instead making good music was all that mattered.
For me ‘Concrete Jungle’ gets a 9.5 out of 10 due to the fact its not a typical 15 track project. Taking over 50 musicians and making them all musically sync with each other on every track is not a easy task, then to have the patients to deal with peoples schedules and egos is another factor but again proof that the impossible can be made possible is evident.
If your still in two minds about wether to buy and support ‘Concerte Jungle’ or your just a cheap skate for music then stream the album below and if you like go and support as UK Music will only continue to grow stronger and stronger.
Words By: Ren_GRM