Review: Unknown T, ‘Adolescence’

Unknown T’s second mixtape lingers in cruise control, occupying the Homerton rapper’s usual Gotham settings.

If there is to be a saviour for drill, it is Unknown T. Since becoming the first occupant with a drill song on the charts, the East London niner’s continued to distinguish himself as a progressive artist in an otherwise oversaturated, diluted drill scene. His 2020 debut mixtape, Rise Above Hate, stamped his seal of eerie 808s, popping pronunciations and rapid flows. A year later, his second mixtape, Adolescence, arrives with the knowledge that T is an esteemed star with a lot more to prove.

Adolescence leaves a lukewarm mark, offering the sounds expected from Unknown T but never pushing the envelope.

On paper, Unknown T possesses every trait needed to deliver a groundbreaking drill project. His ceiling is far higher than what he shows, holding the foresight to put out a body of work in similar vein to Headie One’s GANG. What transpires on Adolescence is a comfort zone, dabbling in both drill and trap while exercising collaborations. Across its 15 tracks are songs with short shelf lives, songs that tick the boxes of your average Unknown T, rather than ticking boxes that truly leave an impression.

The mixtape opens strong, however, with “22 Double O”. Here, Unknown T is menacing, rapping with shivering intent over Shaolin drill production by Chris Rich. The energy and flows are textbook T, ever flagrant in his unique mannerisms. Lead single “WW2” is another spirited tune, showcasing T’s capabilities as a talented rapper and hook writer. “Goodums” channels the spirit of Rise Above Hate‘s “Deh Deh”, thriving through its minimal beat, led by the fantastically ominous piano keys and angelic vocal samples during the chorus. The second verse proves exactly why Unknown T is one of the best flowers in the UK, skirting expertly through his infectious rhyme schemes. These are moments where Adolescence is at its best; delivering Gotham City soundtracks with dexterity in Unknown T’s performance and pen.

Missteps occur when Unknown T diverts his attention to trap production. Adolescence offers a string of trap songs that often pander to the honourary featured artist (“Wonderland”, “No Forgiveness”, “Trenches”). It reveals just how far UK trap is yet to go, as it currently remains in a purgatory state of forgettable output. It is thus questionable why Unknown T incorporates these songs onto the project when he can be the torchbearer for experimental drill.

The project title suggests an element of content, giving the impression that the subject matter may be more personal and reflective than ever. These moments never arrive, providing a glimpse on “Bible Love”, otherwise Adolescence is a title for decoration. To take drill out of its lingering state, there now must be a sense of depth to the songs. This now evident more than ever, and Adolescence is the latest case study of this.

At its most fuelled, Adolescence is an exhibition of one of the finest voices in drill. Though with its trap excursions in play, Unknown T is yet to break through his coveted ceiling.

6 / 10

Best tracks: “Goodums”, “WW2”, “EAST”, “Louis Bloom”