It’s been two years since Loyle Carner released his debut album, Yesterday’s Gone and after much anticipation the south London rapper drops his second project, Not Waving, But Drowning.
On the evidence of his second project he has gone through growth as an artist but hasn’t lost his razor-sharp flow and his unique storytelling ability along the way.
Although he has come of age in Croydon and in a time in which grime is resurgent, Carner is not an MC in the strictest sense. His wordplay is more languid, his subject matter more internal. He is one of few UK rappers who can rap but ally this ability with the sensitivity of a poet, the warmth of a close friend and observational nouse of a novelist.
Bookended by letters between himself and his mum, Carners second album takes listeners on a journey, from finding the one in ‘Dear Jean’, grappling with identity in ‘Looking Back’ and a broken friendship with close friend Rebel Kleff, in ‘Krispy’.
Loyle’s music is real and resonates with listeners. The title for Yesterday’s Gone was taken one of his stepfathers’ song, who was a talented musician in his own right, the title for his latest project comes from a poem by his grandfather.
Family and friends are quite dear to Loyle’s heart and not something that is a secret. His first album cover was those closest to him and the album featured a brief feature from his mother in a beautifully written poem. Not Drowning, but Waving, delves deeper into not these relationships.
The album opens with ‘Dear Jean’, a letter to his mother in which he’s telling her that he has found the love of his life, “a woman from the skies”, and he’s moving out and ends on ‘Dear Ben,’ a beautifully written poem from his mother, speaking of how she is proud of him and the journey he has gone through.
When he refers to his ‘fathers’ in the track ‘Looking Back’ he is referring to two fathers. His biological father, a black man who he knows, but knows very little of, and his step father, a poet and musician who happens to be a white man but died suddenly in 2014.
In ‘Looking Back,’ Carner grapples with being mixed race and dealing with loss, issues all to common in society. He succinctly captures the unspoken paradoxes of multicultural Britain in a beautifully formed song.
While in ‘Krispy’ he is pouring his heart out to his best friend Rebel Kleff after their relationship went downhill, Loyle’s relationship with friends is tackled in a lighter way on ‘It’s Coming Home’. The interlude is a recording of Loyle and his friends anxiously watching England’s penalty shootout against Colombia in the 2018 World Cup.
With collaborations from Jorja Smith, Sampha, Tom Misch and Jordan Rakei, Not Waving, But Drowning is where Loyle Carner has come of age and sets him up for an exciting summer of festivals, including Lovebox and Glastonbury.