This is known: Young Fathers have been making a name for themselves over the past year or so across a variety of different formats. The group, made up of Kayus, Alloysious and G, have released two successful EPs, imaginatively named TAPE ONE and TAPE TWO, toured Europe and the States, and even made a series for Channel 4. What is not known is whether they are the most pretentious or the most sarcastic trio in music, especially when explain their new album with lines like: “It’s called DEAD because I can say it out loud and it means nothing.” This is a review of their music however, not a personal assessment, so we shall continue.
Young Fathers’ unique cultural blend is apparent from the off; these musical alchemists have mixed up enough sub-genres to have journalists and fans, arguing over categorisation for years. The beats are a mash of grainy, droning electronica – such as that found in the winding ‘JUST ANOTHER BULLET’ – but with a distinct afro influence, displayed heavily in the chants and tribal drums of opener ‘NO WAY’.
Then there are the vocals to consider. DEAD sees rap in a number of forms; in ‘GET UP’ the flow matches the funky rhythm; whereas there are harder styles later on, with both raw and subtle aggression in ‘PAYING’ and ‘MMMH MMMH’ respectively. Even more present however, is the indie/folk flavoured, harmonic singing found in tracks such as ‘AM I NOT YOUR BOY’.
There’s the twist however – these elements are not individual. Practically every track sees all of them combined to create evermore-intriguing structures; there is no formula here, only experimentation and development.
DEAD is true new music. The product of a tri-nation collaboration (Scotland, Liberia and Nigeria), it conveys the artist’s personal struggles, whilst being relatable and expansive. The vocals can drag at times, particularly the singing, which despite the beautiful performances can feel overdone. Still, the talent and vision of Young Fathers cannot be denied, and they stand as ambassadors of multi-cultural cohesion and musical progression.