Written by Samee Anibaba
Boom. Big Boy Skrapz, The One and Only, Iron Mike (or maybe now AJ) has returned.
Last seen in 2015 (just a reminder, that was nearly 3 years ago) with the instant classic The End of The Beginning, Skrapz is back again out of the blue with its follow up, Different Cloth. The End of The Beginning was a bit of a rebrand that paid off for the mixtape rapper – it was a clean, polished and smooth late-nights-in-the-whip album with big features and chill laidback beats. It had an insane amount of replay value, but once you finish it you wonder if he was telling the truth on the album title.
Is this really the end of the beginning for his career?
In many ways it really was – Skrapz and the rest of the Ice City crew have touched new heights after Skrapz’s last string of Linkup TV hits and Nines’, the self-described ‘Trapper of The Year’s incredible solo album and after being signed to XL Records. Nines has always been seen as the leader of the crew but now it’s time for Skrapz to prove if he can keep the Ice City name strong.
Different Cloth strikes you more like a mixtape than an album – remember, Skrapz is still unsigned and self-released this album. But Skrapz has an eerie talent for living up to the name of his albums and it becomes clear as soon as you switch the project on with the Mark Asari-assisted intro that Skrapz has delivered an equally polished and solid follow up to his last album (and yet another solid boxing reference on the opener). His mixtapes make other rappers mixtapes look amateur.
On Facts he practically spits on the shoes of the rest of the scene, giving them a dirty look (or an evil glare) through his bars. When Skrapz spits a bar like “Niggas think there savage / I couple out the semi automatic / Make them panic” you get the spine chilling impression that Skrapz is built from a different cloth because he’s cut the cloth himself.
Different Cloth brings back the essence of that classic UK rap; the beats are bright but chill and laid back, a perfect and cinematic backdrop from the gangster movie that Skrapz writes in his flows. Skrapz goes into explicit detail about the life of a trapper turned rapper. On Can’t Give the Game Up he raps about the effect of the police shutting down his shows (something numerous UK rappers have been vocal about, from Lethal B to Giggs to JME), saying “I can’t give the game up they cancel all my shows / So I double up my reload / And I ain’t buying ounces when I cop I’m buying kilos”. He also constantly reminds you that he’s not these other rappers – he’s suffered to get where he is.
Trying to describe what sets Skrapz apart from the rest of the UK rap scene is hard; he’s remained consistent and scarily honest, consistently barring in that barely-trying flow that with a cold as steel inflection, as menacing as it is exciting.
Despite this, Different Cloth has several impressive features. Skrapz has always kept a good chemistry with singers for his hooks, and Moelogo stands out on In Da Streets, breaking up the monotony and taking the song to another level. Also on this song is Nines, the Ice City leader who steps in quickly to drop off an equally menacing verse.
Another Ice City member on the album is Fundz who appears with Richy Diamonds for the laidback banger that is Hustler’s Anthem. His verse brings a hard and surprising level of lyricism to the song that delves into serious gun talk as he and Skrapz describe the true meaning of a hustler.
One surprising feature was Chip – the already established good boy of grime, Chip and Skrapz have an unexpected level of chemistry going back and forth on High Spec. He opens the tune and delivers a solid hook with Skrapz that reminds you of Going In on Nine’s last album. This is the trap tune of the album with a hard beat that Chip goes in on. He holds his own on the North London linkup track, flexing with bars like “Been a young en-trap-reneur, who you doubting? Don’t tell me about ounces, I shot houses”.
All in all, Skrapz has delivered a project that is the perfect sequel to The End of The Beginning. It’s a bit more focused on trap beats and maybe there isn’t a tune as purely disgusting as Round Here with Giggs; but just like the last album there’s variety, solid verses and features and Skrapz’s chemistry with his hook singers remains unmatched. Skrapz still holds a heavyweight title belt in UK Rap.
Different Cloth is available on Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal.