Jermaine Scott Sinclair, also known as Wretch 32, has been a household name in the world of grime for years in which he has received a handful of accolades for his talent. Wretch has evolved with his genre, making music that has achieved mainstream chart success whilst managing to maintain what others haven’t; authenticity. No song ever sounds manufactured or pop-produced. ‘Grow Over Life’, his new album, is a prime example of this. It’s real. This is due to Wretch’s unique writing ability, not forgetting the impressive production of this body of work. Undoubtedly, Wretch 32 is a lyricist. The man says it himself on track ‘Antwi’; he is “Shakespeare with great hair”. Just listen to the second verse on ‘Cooked Food’… or the first verse on ‘Dreams’… or all of ‘Open Conversation & Mark Duggan’. Every single, every mixtape, every album is thought provoking and meaningful. It makes listeners feel something. Excuse the pun, ‘Something’ must have rubbed off on me.
I was first introduced to Wretch 32’s music in 2011 when I heard his second studio album called ‘Black and White’. I instantly fell in love with a song called ‘Don’t Go’ featuring Josh Kumra. 5 years later, it is still one of my favourite songs and brings me back to my 17 year old self. His ability to evoke such emotion has not softened his reputation. All he has to do is neutralise the feelings scale by dropping a Fire In The Booth.
The first track on the album ‘Antwi’ is far from soft. It’s a powerful opening statement in which his lyrics are unapologetically truthful. He always manages to put his finger on the button when it comes to his comments on society. Wretch addresses fakeness; “you see how fast the hate turns to love when everybody has to rate what you’ve done” and f@ck boys; “I pray these fuck boys keep their distance”. Amen. Next up, ‘Pressure’, a song about… the title is self-explanatory. The last verse runs off the beat as he reels off life’s responsibilities.
Now for my favourite song on the entire album, “Take Me As I Am” featuring Phoenix Thomas and Kranium. It’s a song about loving someone in spite of their flaws and accepting someone for exactly who they are. I knew that this would be a personal favourite from the moment I heard the flow on the first verse. Then the vocals reminded me of the wonderful period of late 2000’s R&B, sounding very similar to singer Lloyd. Lastly but not least, the song ends with a phone conversation to Wretch’s Mrs. His Nokia ring tone sounds and he answers the phone. This section literally had me grinning from ear to ear as I thought about those numerous types of infuriating phone conversations I’ve experienced in the past between man and woman… “Wait… who you talking to”, “Say that again”, “You didn’t hear me?” Is the man failing to be understanding or is the woman being over-sensitive? That’s a discussion for another day. Anyway, these elements are all rolled together to create a snippet of real life and real love. After all, great things come in threes.
Then we get to track ‘I.O.U’. It had that same haunting effect on me as ‘Don’t Go’, only this was enhanced by the beautiful voice of Emeli Sande. It is a tribute to the strong women who have had a huge impact on Wretch’s life in which he is forever in their debt. He thanks his Sister for keeping him on the straight and narrow and worships his Mum, “First Mum, Second God” for her ability to raise him on her own, “I didn’t know a Queen had to be a King too”. His clever play on words is exemplified through the chorus, “A, E, I, O U”, a way of teaching children the difference between vowels and consonants.
It is this attention to detail and emphasis on the practice of linguistics that makes this album such a special body of work.