The UK’s own Charlie Steel returns with a longer project that further cements his role as a unique story-teller and artist within the rap scene.
Up All Night kicks things off with that classic, early noughties hip hop vocal style and a subsequently beautiful, quickly engaging hook. The guitar sound in the backdrop fuses creatively with the varied weight of a retro beat, and meanwhile the story pours through in a calm and refreshing way. Poetic scene-setting is met with personal depth and honesty. A strong introduction to the EP, and a genuinely enjoyable – increasingly so – alternative hip hop track.
The unmistakable Staying In, Going Out emerges next with that quickly likable Audio Bullys vibe about it. Poverty Porn afterwards leads with yet another easily recognisable and rather vintage synth riff. Steel’s vocal rhythm on top of this, these short lines, paint a clear picture and offer a fairly hypnotic few minutes of music that strangely calms but also inspires and softly motivates. These Mac DeMarco synths meet with a creatively free aura not unlike The Streets, giving Charlie Steel a definite sound of his own right now. The subject matter is notably relatable for many, adding a level of depth and realness in today’s world – particularly, perhaps, for UK listeners.
Rounding up that sense of relevancy is the closing track of the project, 2019 – a lyrical stand-out and one that holds tight to your attention right through to the end. Lines like Over 500 friends yet we all feel so alone hit hard, and this weight increases throughout. The track touches on recent political and social difficulties, thought it does so from the perspective of the average civilian – it also uplifts as it resolves to an overall depth of it’s about being human. Steel takes on these invisible barriers between us and pushes for unity and togetherness, for kindness and understanding. A simple beat and a repeating riff help create a minimalist ambiance so the words really stand tall. Steel’s mellow delivery also lets the ideas ring out in their own way, furthering the connection and that positive effect.
Not Industry Standard is the perfect name for this EP. This short playlist is swiftly likable, deeply honest, and musically pure. Steel is unconcerned with expectation or, as stated, industry standards, so his music has a level of freedom and realness about it that’s decidedly rare. More than this though, you soon come to recognise his style, to find intrigue and interest in his words, and to find solace in the ambiance he presents. It’s an enjoyable collection that seems all too short in hindsight, though it’s always better to leave your audience wanting more than to outstay a welcome. Well worth a small part of your day.