News 2 May 2018

I See You Shining: The progression of Nines

2 May 2018

After almost a decade since his first full project From CR To Hollywood, it would seem Nines is finally reaching the musical heights he was always destined to. Two years after penning a contract with XL recordings, the Harlsden rapper has wowed us with his terrific 16-track sophomore studio album Crop Circle. Let’s take a minute to look back on Nines and how far he’s come from his humble beginnings to mature into the artist that produced Crop Circle.

Unbeknown to many, Nines begun releasing tracks at the tender age of 17, having featured on an early CRS mixtape with circulated around 2007. Some of his hardest early tracks include “Piff” ,“All I Know”, featuring Likkle T “Lifestye” , “Nu Crack”, and his “Nas Beat Freestyle”. It didn’t take long for Nina to be recognized as a hard barer with his arsenal of sick punch lines and metaphors, it was obvious he was a true street poet with an incredible gift to articulate the gangster lifestyle of a drug dealer from North West London with a certain panache and originality.

In 2012 at the age of 22, he released his first full project From CR To Hollywood, a mixed body of slick braggadocios and candidly emotive body of tracks which many still to this day tout as his greatest work to date. From CR to Hollywood is one of those projects you can just listen to from start to finish wout skipping as Nines paints a vivid of his gangster lifestyle in North West London. Some of the sickest tunes on the mixtape include “Breathing” “No Punch Lines” “Dreaming” “Metallic Black” “I Know You’re Hating” and “Church RD To Izzy” featuring another of North London’s finest barers, Joe Black. Two music videos were produced for the mixtape’s tracks “CR” and “AJ’d Out”.

His next project would come in the following year, a year he would unfortunately face some time behind bars, hence the mixtape’s title Gone Till November. The mixtape even features a skit of Nines talking from inside prison on the 10th track “Handle It”, a sick version of a cold Mac Miller instrumental. Other notable tracks on this project include “Tap That” which was featured on the BrotherHood soundtrack, both his legendary Fire In The Booth and the CRS Westwood shut down, as well as the absolute banger “Certified North West G”. While this was still a solid project perhaps it lacked the appealing rawness of From CR to Hollywood. However this was still a time when Nines really cemented himself as a heavy weight of the UK rap scene. Following this, Loyal to the soil, Nina’s third mixtape released in 2014 to mark three back to back years of projects. Perhaps not one of the most widely touted bodies of work by Nines, the Loyal To The Soil tracklist includes the bangers “Nightmare (Dreaming pt2)”, “Money On My Mind” and “Lick Shots” which features Fatz, J Man and Youngs Teflon.

Arguably his second if not most enjoyable mixtape, One Foot In, came out in 2015. This mixtape was packed full of strong instrumentals, well written hooks, and of course plenty of sick lyricism. “Just Another Day”, “Grind For Real”, “Can’t Blame me” “Roll With Me” “Yay” and “Rick James” are to name but a few of the plethora of bangers on this project which also work well as an example of the myriad of styles and sounds Nina is capable of working into a banger. The mixtape also contains a couple wavey freestyles, including one from 2007, and a bonus track from Nafe Smalls. One Foot In made it clear that Nines was capable of simultaneously producing tracks for the streets, and tracks for the radio, a task which is often the downfall of many artists, thus you could say it was time for him to finally go all out and produce a full studio album.

Despite no music coming out from Nines in 2016, it would still turn out to be one of the biggest years in his career as he was signed by XL recordings, and after the first year he failed to put out a project since the release of From CR To Hollywood, in 2017 Nines finally released his full debut album, a follow up to his previous mixtape, entitled One Foot Out. His freshman album was a fine debut, and included a myriad of hard tracks like “High Roller” featuring the mogul J Hus, “Going In”, “Trapper Of The Year”, “Stacey Adams”, “Break Away”, “I Wonder”, and the “Outro” is also really cold. However as to be expected when making the transition to a major record label, some of the tracks on the album were perhaps overly polished and lost the bite that Nines has in some of his rawer music. Whilst the bars are there some of the hooks and instrumentals on One Foot Out were a bit too soft, and R&B-focused. Another barrier broken for Nines in 2017 was his appearance on Boiler Room, South Korea, the first time an artist like him performed in both that part of the world, and on that kind of channel.

Finally we arrive at Crop Circle, Nine’s second studio album, sixth overall project, and definitely one of, if not, the hardest to date. Still finding his feet and negotiating the thin lines between the world of a rapper and the word of a trapper, a key theme of the album, I believe sonically at least Nine’s is on point with Crop Circle. I believe Nina was able to incorporate some slightly more commercial elements without dampening down the entire sound of the album, despite its very clean (and wavy) production it carries the spirit of an early From Church Road to Hollywood Nines that perhaps went missing a little bit on the previous album. I also think the album goes far to show the multiple sounds Nines is capable to put out from the emotive “Pictures in a Frame” to the braggadocios “Rubber Bands” which are only the first two tracks. Whilst this album is virtually cover to cover bangers some of the other tracks which stood out are “Liz”, “Same Way”, “Haze”, “Oh My”, “Tony Soprano”, “Venting”, and “Line Of Fire Pt. 5”. To have an album as great as Crop Circle is, indicates the maturation of Nines as an artists, and it will be interesting to see how he goes about following up something so good.

As one of the most consistent musicians out there, from 2012 -2018 he is a punch line master who has an ability to paint such a slick and vivid picture of his controversial lifestyle, but still embodies the work rate and hunger of a newcomer, Nines has now well and truly earnt his spot among the UK’s elite musicians, and will always be remembered as a legend of the UK rap scene raking high up there with the likes of Giggs, Mover, Blade Brown and Joe Black. He’s come long way since his first mixtape, perhaps now Hollywood is close on the horizon.