Wretch 32 – Black and White | Album Review

Of all the proposed jumps from grimy street rhymer to polished, radio friendly ‘superstar’, the expected transformation of Jermaine Scott better known as Wretch 32 was always going to be intriguing. For the north London rapper’s immense lyrical performances and fondness for conceptual material seems vacant within many of the successful acts from the urban pop market. But with three exceptional chart singles, an abundance of festival appearances plus receiving the nod of appeal from both the underground and mainstream radio platforms, Wretch stands in a position which very few have been able to reach. But can Black and White, the second album from Mr 32 paint a more vivid picture than the current hoard of paint-by-numbers projects on offer from the rest?

Taking a more mature mantle to the electro-rap sounds of his rhyming peers, Wretch chooses to immerse his bars in more deeper instrumentals with classic samples. The first successful outing, “Traktor,” borrows Dick Dale’s “Miserlou,” (made famous in the 1994 classic film Pulp Fiction), and finds the 26 year old remaining in cruise control, speaking with confident freeness about the ever revolving/contradicting world of a young adolescent enjoying life regardless of the circumstances.

Reaching out to the indie kids of the past and present, “Unorthodox”‘s wicked/abhorrent use of the Stone Roses‘ “Fools Gold” provides an uplifting charge, with guest Example‘s choral proclamation of today’s generation being the real leaders and trendsetters of today.

Wretch’s renowned lyricism, thankfully, remains intact. Cramming in as many punchlines as possible (even to the point where it sometimes tires) the prolific styling of the towering emcee isn’t watered down for the masses. What’s more impressive is that his storytelling approach also is on hand. Even though spouting the same nothing-to-something parable on “Never Be Me,” 32’s slick approach to the matter is fine-tuned to match the R&B vibe, rhythmic drums and impressive vocals from singer Angel.

“Forgiveness” is a powerful, diary-like transcribe of the guilt which plagues Black and White‘s protagonist, whilst the haunting, somewhat operatic structure of “Long Way Home” (alongside Daley) tackles the harsh, unfair dealings which life brings.

Black and White however, does hang on to many Hip Hop clichés; from narrating about his past dealings alongside Chipmunk on “I’m Not That Man” to the somewhat sickly sweet musings on “Anniversary.” But Wretch’s lyrical execution and dry wit ensure that the material is passable. The best example of a rehashed formula done right is on the chart-topping single “Don’t Go,” featuring Josh Kumra. A typical plea for his love to stay, Wretch removes his cool front to subtly show his feelings; all to a mature, engulfing score.

Black and White offers much more than its album would like to suggest. Its depth in verses and production is a welcome change from the instant success-chasing sounds which many from Wretch’s surroundings have adopted. Make no mistake, Wretch 32’s second album also exhibits a number of overly tried and tested formats – the over reliance of big hooks, somewhat mushy material and more – but in Black and White, the Wretchroboy delivers a more grown up offering of the ever growing sound of UK urban pop. Capturing the rugged spirit which was on display on Wretchrospective and channelling it within the more structured boundaries of the mainstream, Black and White stands as a true example that there is room in the market for those who have a way with words.

Wretch 32 – Black and White
Released: August 21, August
Label: Ministry Of Sound/Levels Ent
Buy: iTunes / Amazon

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