Review: Avelino, ‘Ego Kills’

The UK wordsmith brings positive flavours on Ego Kills, a detour from his best work to prove his hitmaking abilities on his first project in four years.

Avelino’s return has been imminent. Since his iconic Fire in the Booth and mixtape with Wretch 32, the North London rapper instantly became a beloved wordsmith of the nation. His last full-length project was 2017’s No Bullshit, which indulged in alternative production and passionate performances. Four years later, Ego Kills takes centre-stage to deliberate the MC’s next career moves.

Ego Kills dons a stern title but takes it easy musically, seeing Avelino keep the ink wet on his pen while keeping his sound relevant to current landscapes rather than rapping over what works best for him.

On Ego Kills, it feels like Avelino is sharpening the way he crafts songs. He wants tracks for every mood in his armoury, an aspect that the mixtape takes well into consideration. Trap production dominates across its 13 tracks but compliments this with moments of dancehall, drill and mellow hip hop. Perhaps this may not be expected of Avelino – he’s a rapper’s rapper after all. But this is where that perception changes. Opening track “Demons” adorns an ominous trap beat and a melodic flow from Avelino, setting the tone for the egotistical lyrics that turn up on the mixtape (“Christian Loubs, got my soles-dem bleeding / Gyal wanna talk about healing / if the devil wears Prada, we’re demons”).

Avelino’s confidence is often contagious. The flexing continues on “100K”, sharing his lifestyle perks over submerged production. This sounds like a man that deserves to flex, and fully aware of his lyrical abilities whenever he drops a slick double entendre.

From tracks like “Control” and “Easy”, it’s fair to assume the summer landing of Ego Kills was calculated. The former track includes guest appearances by Yungen and Not3s, two artists that are more than familiar with conjuring summer hits, and an infectious hook delivered by Avelino himself. You can envision Avelino in an Hawaiian shirt from “Same Old Story”, however it is also one of the project’s finest moments of reflection. “Audacious” is another track that finds sung vocals by Avelino, proving he can hold the melodies on his own if he so chooses to.

The energy in his rapping finds Avelino fitting on a drill beat, found on “Gorillas”. The wordplay matches the performance, and stands out among the sea of UK drill nowadays (“Knew about tag, never knew about labels”).

But Avelino is at his best when tackling traditional hip hop. He reunites with Wretch 32 for “Me and My Friends”, bringing back his signature reflective flow and subject matter that touches the listener (“Visionary, I got memories ahead of me”). Meanwhile, the emotion is on full display in Wretch 32’s performance, hitting home to make the song one of the mixtape’s standout cuts. It is more moments like these that Ego Kills misses – moments that made Avelino the star he is – and what showcase Avelino’s best abilities.

What Ego Kills achieves the most is showcasing Avelino’s variation. His knack for songwriting improves while never failing to maintain his lyrical presence. But sonically, Avelino should avoid becoming the most common in the common room.

6 / 10

Best tracks: “Me and My Friends”, “100K”, “Another Holiday”, “Control”