The UK icon’s typical trademarks wear thin in a promising album rooted in the fundamentals of hip hop.
After years of underground mixtapes and hurdles, Giggs has seen the fruits of his labour. Mainstream publications now cover his work and police no longer shut down his shows. 2017’s Wamp 2 Dem mixtape awarded transatlantic collaborators with the likes of Young Thug and 2 Chainz to show the world Giggs can enlist any feature he desires. Even bigger bags are being secured thanks to the backing of Island Records, funding the album campaign for Giggs’ latest album.
Giggs’ greatness will never be questioned; he has solidified himself as a legend regardless of his future output. However, it was only a matter of time before the ink of the blueprint faded.
Two glaring issues underwhelm the potential of Big Bad; Giggs’ flow and the lack of replay value. In hindsight, Wamp 2 Dem was the final stretch for the “Man just” motifs, the untenanted space between bars and performance of his own hooks. Big Bad desperately calls for a different flow, one without 2-4 words per bar. Songs such as “Set It Off” and “Spun It” narrowly separate themselves as exceptions from the stale delivery, reigning superior to forgettable tracks “Talk About It”, “Who”, “Turnt” and “187”. There is a bizarre refusal to switch up flow for entire songs, which isn’t helped by the absence of engaging subject matter and memorable hooks.
Unlike with Wamp 2 Dem, the American collaborations on Big Bad rarely gel. Lil Yachty and French Montana develop no chemistry with Giggs on their respective tracks, their verses mixing like water and oil. The cosigns achieve no memorability and do more harm than good.
Big Bad overtly recreates some of Giggs’ recent hits in formulaic fashion. “187” aspires to reproduce the magic of 2016’s “Whippin Excursion”, while “Baby” rounds off Giggs’ ‘songs for the ladies’ trilogy (“Lock Doh”, “Linguo”). Instead of evolving the formula, Big Bad overlooks the sentiment that nothing beats the original.
In the album’s best moments, Giggs finds himself rooted in the fundamentals of hip hop. The collaborative track with Jadakiss is an accurate homage to the early 2000s (“Mic Check”), as is the explosive “Terminator” featuring the signature production of Swizz Beatz. The strongest case for pure hip hop is a collaboration within Giggs’ own borders. “Gwop Expenses” encourages Giggs to pack more words into his bars before Wretch 32 delivers masterful wordplay (“I got Jayden in my will / Uncle, how you feel? / Call me Fresh Prince, I bring Bel-Air up to your grill”). Carrying the strongest verses and production of the album, “Gwop Expenses” is an example of what should’ve been emulated across the rest of Big Bad.
Big Bad certainly toys with vintage hip hop production and a promising album concept that may have offered Giggs’ darkest album to date. Although without ranging the flows, subject matter or replay value, Big Bad sits in the circumference of the rapper’s best work. Giggs’ “switch it” ad-lib frequently appears across Big Bad but forgets to enforce the switch.
Rating: 6 / 10
Best tracks: “Gwop Expenses”, “Set It Off”, “You Ain’t”, “Show Me Respect”, “Terminator”, “Hold Up”, “Mic Check”