Ashamed – Nick Brewer
21.58 min • Self Released • September 15, 2013
Little Bastard reviews
Sometimes, all it takes for an album or EP to ‘click’ for you is a single line. And for me, there was one such line from Nick Brewer’s debut EP. The only problem is … it’s not actually one of his lyrics.
I spread myself too thin,
Why should I drown, trying to help you swim –
The line, lifted from George The Poet, appears on ‘In The Quiet’, a track buried two thirds of the way in to Brewer’s Flat 10 EP It really resonated with me and instantly beam my Facebook status, but also made me want to start the EP again, and listen to it with different ears.
There’s a fine line between rap and poetry. For years rap had a bad reputation, and to a certain extent still does, but over time many rappers have worked hard to prove their technique is more of an art-form than ‘guns, bitches and bling’, and most UK rap has more in common with poetry than its American commercial counterpart. Anyone that’s read my reviews knows how much I love my British rap. From Plan B to Speech Debelle and Scroobius Pip, I have a huge fondness for people whose art is poetry, and whose words are formed to make a difference and to provoke thought and discussion.
I’d never heard of Nick Brewer, which is a bit shameful, and so didn’t expect much when his debut EP landed in my inbox. The first thing I did was YouTube him and find the videos for ‘Ashamed’ (which I loved) and new single ‘So Good’ … the latter seeming far too jolly for my liking. So when I pressed play on the EP I was pleasantly surprised to find the best collection of chilled out rap I’d heard since 2012’s Freedom of Speech by Speech Debelle.
While a lot of his friends were into drugs and in gangs, Brewer used to be a DJ who would spit poetry over the tracks he played (which I’d have loved to hear) and when his friend was murdered he took to rapping full time to get a clearer message across. His youth work in Essex has also been a big inspiration to his music, and Flat 10 is a collection of stories based not only on his own experiences, but also the experiences of those he came into close contact with. As you’d expect, this is an intense 6 song collection, finishing on an amazing cover of Kano’s ‘ET’, plus a gorgeous hidden track (so really 7 songs in total).
Opener ‘So Good’, which I originally wrote-off after seeing the video, makes a lot more sense in the context of the EP. Sonically it reminds me of Frank-era Amy Winehouse, with its soft nu-soul bounce; and lyrically it’s a sweet love song that somehow manages to transcend its cheesy and slightly misplaced Olly Murs-esque video.
‘Sun In Your Eyes’ has a gorgeous laziness about it, a haunting early ’90s trip hop vibe that engulfs me. Lyrically, it seems to serve as an open letter, as most of the tracks here do, and lines like,
At times you say you don’t wanna live,
And you know thats something I’ve got a problem with –
are particularly effecting, making the listener feel like an intrusive voyeur … but in a way that is interesting.
Likewise, there’s a lyric in ‘Jail’, featuring Jacob Banks, that encapsulates the reason this EP exists. In a somber voice, Brewer spits,
I don’t say these words just to make a verse,
I’m trying to take away the pain, take away the hurt –
and that, to me, marks the difference between a rapper and a poet. Every word that Brewer says on this EP comes from his heart, and is said to make a change – whether it just be to one person or people at large, and that I have a lot of respect for.
It’s almost impossible to pick a track out of this EP, as each one is sonically beautifully and has something important to say, but ‘Ashamed’ is the one that sticks in my head, even after several listens. It’s a beautiful track that feels the most confessional on Brewer’s part, albeit feeling a little too short at 2 minutes 25 seconds (it could have gone on forever and I wouldn’t have cared).
Nick Brewer’s flow reminds me a lot of Speeche Debelle (who I love). This EP is drenched in regret, pain and somber Saturday nights, and I love it. Hip Hop has evolved so much over the years, and the blurred lines between rap and poetry have lead to the blurring of musical genres. This EP, along with other recent EPs like it, contain major elements of Trip Hop and Ambient music that makes it a sonic delight. Over the past few years, rappers like Plan B, Debelle and Kitty Pryde have really changed the way I view Hip Hop. From chilled out trip hop to grimy beats, from teenage diaries to council estate fables, rap has become one of the most powerful tools a musician can use to make a statement, both sonically and politically, and Nick Brewer’s EP does that in spades. I can’t wait to see where he goes after this, but I know wherever it is I’ll be excited by it.