If you’ve never been to a Loyle Carner gig, then this will sound awkward and weird but they kind of make you emotional and ah.. your eyes water and stuff.
He launched his first album Yesterday’s Gone on Friday at Rough Trade East and it ended up feeling like a kind of large family gathering. He cried on stage, it was no big deal, it’s just how it is on these occasions. His mum was there, his girlfriend was there, his mates, and we the audience somehow became cousins, uncles, aunts who’d dropped in – we should have brought cake.
The album, and most of his work is about feelings, loss, love and it’s intimate and he makes himself very vulnerable but, miraculously, not a preachy, humourless dick.
He’s a rapper with more than a foot in the performance poetry camp and very little in common with the traditional fare from The City of Compton: he doesn’t seem overly bothered about comparing his abilities to other similar artists, his annual earnings, or his potential for violence etc He’s made that most daring of moves in the rap world and come out as a nice bloke.
If you listen to one track, I’d say try Florence – written for his unborn sister, imagining making her pancakes. “She could be my little freckled-face fidgeter, me but miniature” It’s not Fuck Tha Police. It’s a little everyday slice of human magic, an Alan Bennett story, a Ken Loach scene.
He sets up the context of his songs on stage and, I’m pretty sure he uses the word ‘context’ to do so. He tells us that his mum was always hoping for a girl and it’s personal; he lets us know she’s standing at the back (I’ve seen him twice and on both occasions his mum’s been there and he got us all to say ‘hi’). She appears on the record performing a poem about him as a child; very much a mum’s poem, it takes on a special poignant quality, placed in the glass case of the album, preserved for ever.
He lost his adoptive Dad to illness while at university and always performs with his old Manchester United t-shirt in his hand. He included a track from an unreleased album that his Dad made. The samples are often jazzy and the snatches of vocal are also heavy with feelings but, trust me, it’s OK, he’s funny, and human and drinks and is not just a collection of wobbly emotions.
Listen to the lines, the tight narratives, that will, I suspect, take him on and on so he’ll be waving that United shirt on ever-bigger stages.
Given time, I suspect he will move the rap agenda on to a new and interesting place; a less traditionally male place. Grab the album now and see him while the venues are still small enough to meet his mum and everything. Maybe bring cake.