Review: Sneakbo, ‘Brixton’

UK veteran Sneakbo finally puts out a career-defining body of work.

It has been a long time coming for Sneakbo. Since 2010, British rapper Sneakbo has released timeless songs and projects, but never released an official album. Sneakbo’s influence cannot be denied, paving the way for the various road rap acts that are so popular today, and being one of the first rappers to fuse rap with dancehall, delivering cult classic anthems such as “Touch Ah Button” and “Wave Like Us” in the process. In this new age of UK rap, it was intriguing to see how Sneakbo has evolved and adapted to still demand listeners’ attention, especially due to how a lot of the new audience will be unaware of him and his contribution to the scene.

Brixton, a homage to Sneakbo’s hometown, is an overdue but solid showcase of Sneakbo’s strengths as an artist. Producer Lekaa Beats provides the blueprint for the sound of Brixton – a combination of drill and afrorap – across the heavy 19 tracks. The “Intro” may be one of the strongest openers to a British rap album in recent years, perfectly balancing the recap of Sneakbo’s life and career till now with a memorable switch-up halfway through to bring back the energy of “Touch Ah Button”, alongside incorporating some of his classic lines (“Lemme show you the wave / I bang bang and I still don’t play”).

Although Sneakbo never started his career rapping over drill beats, the first half of Brixton proves he is able to match the sound effortlessly, particularly on “Fuck It” and “Most Hated”. Luckily, Sneakbo makes sure he doesn’t overdo it, providing plenty standard hip hop tracks with memorable hooks such as “Back Then” and “Active” with Giggs to maintain some variety.

The track “Nah” with Not3s is the strongest chart contender, proving that Sneakbo’s strengths lie in his ability to churn out a memorable hit.

Lyrically, Sneakbo maintains his usual subject matter and delivery he came into the game with. This adds a nostalgic element to all the tracks which is what makes Brixton so likeable; it’s an uncompromising showcase of what Sneakbo’s always done.

However, the second half of Brixton is not as memorable as the first half, where Sneakbo saturates the back end with a string of melodic, tropical cuts that are quite similar to one another. The best of the lot are “Tonight”, which Sneakbo tackles on his own, and “Where I’m From”, which includes Sneakbo’s classic dancehall drum pattern. Cutting a few of these songs from the tracklist or including more authentic dancehall tracks would have enabled the second half of Brixton to be as cohesive as the first half.

The project ends on a strong note with the “Outro”, tying the theme of living life in Brixton together that gives the album an actual purpose rather than being a mere collection of random songs.

Besides a saturated tracklist and a weaker second half, Brixton easily will be one of the strongest UK releases of the year. The nostalgic element works in Brixton‘s favour, reminding those who have always been familiar with Sneakbo how he was ahead of his time back in his peak years.

Rating: 7.5 / 10

Best tracks: “Intro”, “Nah”, “Active”, “Back Then”, “Till the End”, “Peakbo”, “Fuck It”