Loyle Carner - Not Waving, But Drowning //AMF Records// (Released 19th April)


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£22.99 – LP

Not Waving, But Drowning follows Loyle Carner’s BRIT Award and Mercury Prize nominated, top 20 debut album Yesterday’s Gone (2017). The bedrock of honest and raw sentimentality heard on Yesterday’s Gone left an inextinguishable mark on music in general and UK Hip Hop in particular, standing out as an ageless, bulletproof debut.

Not Waving, But Drowning gives yet more evidence – as if it were needed – of his razor-sharp flow and his unique storytelling ability. Yes, he can rap, but he allies that with the sensitivity of a poet, the observational skills of a novelist, and warmth of your best friend. It goes without saying that Loyle’s music is hard to categorise, but what is even more impressive is that for someone who grew up listening to Mos Def, Biggie Smalls, Roots Manuva, and Wu Tang Clan, he doesn’t sound like any of them. Although he might from time to time give lyrical nods to them, he’s no imitator.

Loyle refers to real life for everything, the title of Yesterday’s Gone came from a song of his step-father, the title of his new album Not Waving, But Drowning comes from a poem by his grandfather, which in turn came from a Stevie Smith poem. When he refers to his ‘fathers’ in the track “Looking Back” he really 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 a sudden unexpected death from epilepsy. With no real emotional ties to his biological father, but a deep connection with a deceased step-father, where does a young child turn? He succinctly captures many of the great, unspoken, cultural and historical paradoxes of multicultural Britain on “Looking Back”.

An album like this is hard to find. It is for those who like their Hip Hop to have soul, and their soul to have spirit. This is because it works on so many levels, but it is reflecting the personality of its creator. There are a host of collaborators here, but none are overpowering. They blend righteously into place.

Loyle is not bitter with people who have let him down, or a society that lets so many down, but the combination of anger and love he has gives his voice the perfect blend of strength and vulnerability. This might be a coming of age album, but it’s also a coming of ageless album.


  1. Dear Jean
  2. Angel (ft. Tom Misch)
  3. Ice Water
  4. Ottolenghi (ft. Jordan Rakei)
  5. You Don’t Know (ft. Rebel Kleff & Kiko Bun)
  6. Still
  7. It’s Coming Home?
  8. Desoleil (Brilliant Corners) (ft. Sampha)
  9. Loose Ends (ft. Jorja Smith)
  10. Not Waving, But Drowning
  11. Krispy
  12. Sail Away (Freestyle)
  13. Looking Back
  14. Carluccio
  15. Dear Ben (ft. Jean Coyle-Larner)

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