Review: ‘The Masked One’

The drill showrunner proves his formidability as a solo act.

LD is unequivocally the star of 67. The Brixton collective raised to notoriety as pioneers of the UK drill scene, setting the blueprint from their breakthrough mixtape In Skengs We Trust all the way up to The 6. Although each member has their own qualities, the chasmic voice of LD sets him apart from his peers in a scene that relies heavily on the power of the production. It’s no surprise LD has embarked on a solo career, beginning with an 8-track mixtape that rapidly sets a good impression – quality over quantity.

In 25 minutes, LD showcases his star power bundled with artistic diversity. His home may be in drill music, however The Masked One visits grime and the trendy afroswing sounds to create a balance of hard-hitting bangers and steamrolled tunes.

The mixtape’s explosive opener, “Detention”, is a menacing memo to the drill scene of who fathered the sound (“Bare man wanna rap drill, better call me dad and I’ll give you my blessings”). Accompanying the various quotables is Tiggs Da Author’s hook, pairing up well with LD to highlight the two most distinctive voices in UK music. “Never Been Safe” continues the drill template, featuring the ghostly sampled vocals in the production that makes LD’s take on drill the most abstract. The track is reminiscent of 67’s “Waps”, proving that drill can thrive without the one-dimensional production other drill artists tend to rely upon.

When LD steps outside his comfort zone, there are surprising guest appearances that support him in selling the sound. “Stepped In” is a brew of drill and grime that sees LD exchange verses with Dizzee Rascal, who owns the standout verse albeit his use of American flows. “So Fly” and “Baddest” are the most LD has been detached from his native style. Though not the strongest tracks, the hooks by Young Adz and Tyy from Bellysquad do the hard work which allows LD to focus on the verses.

With The Masked One, LD reassures listeners who may be tired of the repetitive nature of drill music. Production from Show N Prove and Carns Hill maintain diversity and melodies, whether it is violins (“Sell Those Things”) or flutes (“Greaze”). The mixture of these melodies with LD’s raw delivery shepherds evolution in the genre, again reaffirming why LD deserves his respects.

The production, brevity and vocal presence of LD sells The Masked One as one of the best drill releases of the years. In the 8 tracks, LD only includes what is necessary, showing impressive quality control for an artist who knows his strengths. From the looks of The Masked One, LD should look forward to a long-living solo career.

Rating: 8 / 10

Favourite tracks: “Detention”, “Never Been Safe”, “Sell Those Things”, “PR”

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