Review: Skepta, Chip & Young Adz, ‘Insomnia’

On Insomnia, Skepta, Chip and Young Adz are aware of their importance but consistently underbake their ideas and misplace the spotlight.

Despite collaborative albums becoming the trend in hip hop, the UK rap scene do not have many under their belt. So the sudden announcement of two legendary British emcees in Skepta and Chip teaming up along with the erotic Young Adz of D-Block Europe felt monumental. Consider this an unofficial supergroup of three generations, all relevant in their lanes and prominent figures in the scene.

The assembly of three British rap giants is historical on paper but the outcome is largely forgettable.

At a trimmed 35 minutes and twelve tracks, Insomnia opts for the trap template popularised by Young Adz and D-Block Europe. This burdens the aspirations of the record from the get go, along with the fact multiple tracks clock in at under 3 minutes. All three artists possess artistic versatility that isn’t channelled given the opportunity at stake to generate a timeless body of work.

Above the common approach to the sound is the flawed distribution of roles. Young Adz’ Auto-Tuned hooks and verses take centre-stage, Chip offers the best performances to demand your respect and attention, while Skepta is a mere afterthought on the majority of the album. After diluting the rap scene with project after project of Auto-Tuned rap, this was Young Adz’s perfect opportunity to return to his unfiltered raps – even if it was for just a handful of tracks. The dominance of his woeful hiccup flows and generic hooks are ultimately the downfall of the album, specifically on “St Tropez” and “Mains”.

The album’s best moments come when the trio step outside of Adz’s comfort zone. “Mic Check” is a UK garage throwback with each rapper mimicking a garage rave emcee. The album’s best hook comes courtesy of Skepta on “Golden Brown”, managing to impress with his singing, something he’s rarely heard attempting. “High Road” is a stripped-back reflection of roads to riches, the album’s sole moment of introspection.

The trap approach doesn’t always fail. Lead single “Waze” is a solid example of Young Adz’s pulling off his one-in-ten probability of a catchy, high-energy hook. Chip ultimately steals the show with his impeccable verse. Although it feels out of place in the context of the song he ensures there’s not a single bar wasted. “Sin City” thrives off Skepta taking the stage in the hook and verse, offering a memorable flow before Chip takes the torch.

With such big household names involved, Insomnia never reaches the heights to match. A misplaced spotlight on Young Adz and the tiresome trap template leads to an underwhelming album. The linkup is legendary but the music is not.

Rating: 6 / 10

Best tracks: “Sin City”, “High Road”, “Golden Brown”, “Waze”