After months of speculating an official release date and two revised tracklistings we finally have the sophomore album from London rapper and political activist Lowkey, crafted 100% independently with no aid from a record label. The end result of the long awaited Soundtrack To The Struggle… is a 26-track LP including six album skits. Since his debut offering Dear Listener released in 2009, Lowkey’s career has incorporated politics, speaking candidly on his opinions about injustice and inequality across the Middle East and at home on various platforms, speaking against government cuts and at anti war and racism meetings and rallies. With little mainstream support of his recent material, 10 tracks already in the consciousness of Lowkey fans and followers and two controversial videos banned from TV, how will this highly anticipated album stand up?
The album’s opening title track commences with Lowkey announcing: “It’s been a long time coming.. too long” over operatic strings, borrowing an unexpected sample from Mavado’s Stephen ‘Di Genius’ McGregor-produced “Change Right Now”. The track, produced by Nutty P who features heavily on this album, serves as an appropriate introduction with Lowkey rapping aggressively and articulately about his feelings on his position in the industry.
“Too Much” – the first of two tracks sampling Lauryn Hill – features the soulful vocals of Arabic rapper and singer Shadia Mansour. Partnering with New York’s Immortal Technique on “Voice Of The Voiceless”, the two go verse for verse over a haunting beat with equally haunting vocals by Rochelle Rose on the chorus, followed by “Hand on your Gun” – one of the 10 unheard tracks where Lowkey raps over an energetic Show’n’Prove production, exposing the forces behind the weapons industry through witty and somewhat sarcastic deliver.
The first strategically placed album skit features a sermon from Reverend Jeremiah Wright, proclaiming “Violence begets violence, hatred begets hatred, and terrorism begets terrorism” which aids as the introduction to the Red Skull produced, highly controversial single “Terrorist”.
The story then mellows into the Paul Weller inspired “Something Wonderful” dedicated to “the women of the world, because women are the world”, followed by the evidently personal track “Dreamers”dedicated to the people that “see things that aren’t there and ask why not” over the acoustic instrumental of Lauryn Hill’s “To Zion” accompanied by vocals from Mai Khalil.
The second skit transitions us into “Obamanation” where he calls out the American government claiming “the American dream only makes sense if you’re sleeping” whilst skit three ties us into the heartfelt Quincy Tones produced “Cradle of Civilization”.
Lowkey showcases his lyrical dexterity on what appears to be his most familiar flow but on the contrasting “Everything I Am,” although reminiscent of poetry it seems at times he struggles to comfortably flow over this slower beat causing the natural flow of the album to decelerate. However the subsequent skit, consisting of an emotionally charged speech, picks up the pace and introduces arguably one of his most distinguished tracks “Long Live Palestine”.
“Dear England” remains one of the standout tracks where Lowkey is the mouthpiece, providing a thought provoking insight into the recent civil unrest across the UK using his double time skills over a tough K Salaam and Beatnick beat, whilst on “Haunted” – perhaps the most vulnerable track on the album – complemented by an eerie melody Lowkey draws on two particularly personal issues causing him psychological conflict on one of a few sensitive moments we hear throughout the album.
Soundtrack To The Struggle… is a crafted album that takes us on a journey of political punchlines and social commentary, full of emotion with a clever use of album skits, weighty production and showcasing lyrical dexterity and storytelling, displaying Lowkey’s growth as a rapper over the past three years. At times you might feel like you’re being force-fed political propaganda as the subject matters repeat – especially if socio-politically conscious music is not your preference – but this is a solid body of work that encapsulates his personal and professional experiences, trials and tribulation that have attributed to the making of this album – and although a few of the lengthy album’s 26 tracks could have been left off, for his loyal fans who have been waiting patiently this will serve as a long overdue dose.