NPhil’s debut mixtape already sets the newcomer out from the crowd, showcasing himself as a competent rapper with a will to be unique.
The North London rapper adopts a mellow approach to the 9 track project, clocking in at 30 minutes. For an artist purely in the introductory stage of his career, DSWB (Dreams Sold Worth Buying) should be looking to set a precedent in what to expect from the newcomer.
On DSWB, NPhil approaches the alternative hip hop lane where there is plenty potential to establish a sense of artistry.
With DSWB, NPhil joins a tight circle of UK rappers chasing a refreshing, alternative sound (Joe James, Knucks, A2). In its tight run-length, DSWB contains flavours for both modern and traditional rap fans. The opening song “Resonate” feels vintage in its jazzy production, with NPhil grabbing ears through tenacious flows. It sets a high ceiling for the project, something the opening track should always aim to achieve. “Ride” occupies a similar space, setting an introspective background for the rapper’s verses on temporary people in his life. These are the moments where DSWB establish NPhil as a rap purist.
Elsewhere, NPhil plays with mid-tempo trap production. Lead single “ABC’s” is the first taste of this sound, boasting a memorable hook and competent rap performances. While trap may be the trendy sound to chase right now, DSWB doesn’t indulge heavily in its stereotype. Songs like the lead single, “Something” and the outro plays with rattling hi-hats while maintaining a focus on completed verses and tasteful song structure.
Which is why NPhil’s nonchalant rapping is the mixtape’s selling point. Every track is attentive in proving NPhil is a competent rapper. There is a satisfying clarity to his voice that makes every bar heard. For an emerging artist, his flows are already pristine, finding the right pocket on whatever beat tackled. It is tough to create a picture of who NPhil is from the half-hour experience, but is reassuring to know there’s no gimmicks here.
Understanding that the mellow tempo dominates the project, “C’est La Vie” injects a burst of energy to the tracklist. As the penultimate track, “C’est La Vie” showcases NPhil’s natural ability to ride a beat. The flows are contagious, as are slick lines like “Donny there masked up, looking like DOOM”. With this formula of pristine flows, energetic production and polished rapping, NPhil comes across as an artist with 5+ years under his belt.
For the bulk of the tape, NPhil executes the hooks to tasteful effect. He tries his luck with mild singing at certain points, the imperfection of which is flattering to the ear. Not all the hooks are memorable, blending alongside the verses quite often. But for a debut project, NPhil proves his competency in this department rather than creating a setback for the enjoyment of the tracks.
The direction of NPhil is clear. He takes pride in his rapping ability, understands the need for a fresh sound in the current UK scene, and above all shows incredible promise to command the alternative rap lane.
7 / 10
Best tracks: “Resonate”, “Ride”, “C’est La Vie”