For the South-London raised composer Swindle, 2020’s global COVID-19 response managed to drive the impetus for his latest LP THE NEW WORLD, which unapologetically ushers introspection, community and liberation into the ether. Initially numbed by the early pandemic and its halting of the physical music business, Swindle fought back, employing an “avengers equivalent” roster of Black British musical talent to craft his No More Normal follow up. “Everyone felt the same,” Swindle recalls. “We all just had to re-group. A retreat to figure this sh*t out and how we’re going to enter the new world.”
Recorded in just a week alongside Akala, Knucks, Ghetts, Daley, Greentea Peng, Joel Culpepper, Joy Crooks, JNR Williams, Kojey Radical Loyle Carner, Maverick Sabre and Poppy Ajudha, nine releases were conceptualised and recorded which personified ruminations experienced during the first England lockdown and aspirations for their future selves.
Swindle and his comrades refuse to shy away from their latent realities, honing in on death, love and grief across the project opener ‘SUNDAY BEST’. “I lost my brother and it hurts with his son at the hearse,” Knucks raps across the viola and violin fuelled introduction. Paired with Kojey Radical, and the ghoul of Joel Culpepper’s soulful runs, the triage glides across the album-track, evoking a multitude of sobering emotions for listeners.
As this album evolves, Swindle, like his peers, begins to ooze in flair, employing the genre-blending first heard during his youth listening to pirate radio shows in the 80s and 90s. On “WHAT MORE” he’s joined with the ethereal Greentea Peng. Forming an ancestral embrace, the multi-hyphenate creator tributes his ancestral West Indian roots, as well as Brixton in the 80’s. The reggae-leaning number sees Peng opt for a spoken-word approach, taking appreciation for life itself. Quickly becoming a musical display of worship, the bass-guitar trombone, guitar and saxophone work in tandem, creating a cinematic and climatic outro, reflecting a passion for life and rhythm itself.
As well as self actualisation, THE NEW WORLD brings with it acts of selflessness, both outside of the studio and on songs such as “LESSON TO MY SEED” which spotlights the journey of fatherhood — Kojey Radical in particular was expecting his first son at the time of recording. “It was so important to have that energy whilst recording. There’s nothing more beautiful than bringing a child into the world.” As a father himself, recording this particular number hit a tender point for Swindle, who centres his kids in everything he does. “It grounded all of us.” Centred throughout, Kojey Radical is therapeutic as he ruminates over his own personal growth and what he wants to offer his now born child. “LESSON TO MY SEED” offers a beautiful subdued and centred middleground across the LP, and allows fans of Swindle to hear the quieter elements of his arrangements, which highlight the beauty in his accumulated range.
Amidst the lessons and evolution is a robust display of UK-raps evolution. ‘BLOW YA TRUMPET’ is boastful, braggadocious and evasive in a lustful way, Swindle roaring his prowess across the song’s backing. The sonics are intricate and complex, with a trumpet and trombone concoction that serenades the entire production. Managing to stay afloat, Kojey Radical returns, alongside Akala, Ghetts and Knucks, all circling one another with an array of flows, cadences and analogies. As old and contemporary guards alike, the quartett represent the historical might of UK lyricists, and ensure that if anything, the field only continues to grow as the rap-based genres grow. “I’m so glad we were able to get Akala on board, he was a privilege to have on board,” Swindle gushes. Managing to usher all four into one room across the week, he let none of them leave until the song was complete. “That’s one of the only times I was that person as a producer [not letting anyone leave].”
In the context of Black Lives Matter’s resurgence both globally and particularly in the UK last June, Swindle felt urged to address race in some way going forward. “I’m not shying away from the conversation as much anymore,” he passionately states. On ‘NO BLACK, NO IRISH’, Britain’s muddy history with race is put on a canvas, as it stands as one of Swindle’s most political releases yet. Vocalised by both Maverick Sabre and Joel Culpepper, the institutionalised and casual racism of being called a foreigner and seeing visually offensive imagery is depicted across violin-driven cushioning. It’s a beautifully blunt reckoning with a subject-matter that deserves to be spotlighted and remembered, especially in the context of a world that’s still yet to fully grapple with and deal with race.
THE NEW WORLD’s best asset is undeniably Swindle, as he masterfully demonstrates that we are in a golden-age of Black British musical production. Beyond his talent, his formula and mindset at present is a more shining example of excelling as a community. “I had to ask myself whether it’s survivor’s guilt, but I feel like without uplifting everyone where would I be? I always tell people to do things like this for other people.” Using his blessings, provided to him during his rise, Swindle is determined to provide cultural and musical change by constantly pushing the envelope. “To sit in a room and watch all of this happen was iconic to me.”