Nines - Crabs in a Bucket Music Album Reviews

On the UK road rapper’s heavy third album, Nines ably explores the conflict between his old life and his new one with typical flair. 

On Christmas Eve 2011, UK road rapper Nines uploaded an 8-minute video to accompany his new song “My Hood”—a standout from his From Church Road To Hollywood mixtape. In the video, he hands out Christmas turkeys to needy members of his community in North West London. The track itself is a lyrical collage, as he runs through shout-outs and namechecks for his friends. Almost 10 years on, Nines has signed to a major label and his third studio album features a track called “Monsters.” Here, the namechecks come for his peers in the UK’s blossoming rap scene. “The fame ain’t changed me/I’m still the same, I just live in the suburbs next to AJ Tracey,” he spits, “Or I’m overseas ’cause the ends is dead.” It’s not clear whether he’s trying to convince himself or his listeners. The song’s second half returns to familiar subjects—flipping weed, making money, and the Church Road housing estate that raised him—and becomes a microcosm of Crabs in a Bucket. As a street documentarian, Nines’ authenticity is both his yardstick and his biggest source of inspiration: Can he hold onto it even as he leaves his old life behind?
This conflict sits at the heart of the album, and is one Nines has documented throughout his career: He titled a 2015 mixtape One Foot In, while his debut studio album was called One Foot Out. With Crabs in a Bucket, Nines claims he’s moving on, all the way out—escaping the people and behaviors set on dragging him down. His last two albums broke new ground for UK rap, both entering the top five in the UK album charts.

But his retreat to the same old tropes and tribulations suggest street life will always have a pull on him. “I ain’t a rapper, I’m a drug dealer that raps,” he goes on “NIC.” It’s a mantra that appears throughout, and a personal mythology evoked in his series of comic short-films that depict a semi-fictionalized account of his drug-dealing come-up. “Intro” lays the dilemma out with rare vulnerability. Nines opens up about his father’s cancer diagnosis, a knife attack that left his face badly scarred, and paranoia about street surveillance, before submitting himself to the pressures of his environment: “I guess the hood got me institutionalized.” Where the same internal wrestling played out 2018’s Crop Circle with some levity, here it weighs heavier.

The album isn’t entirely devoid of light relief, and Nines’ characteristic wit still sparkles in punchlines like “Fuck a middleman, I even get my water from the spring,” on “Lights.” The production remains laid-back and luxurious too, more suited to road trips in the high-end cars that pepper his lyrics than the live stages he rarely graces. Despite signing with Warner, Nines forgoes the draw of the major label contact book for the most part—choosing instead to pull in features from those who deserve some shine. “All Stars 2,” a follow-up from its namesake on One Foot In, pushes up-and-comers Frosty, Clavish, Q2T, and Chappo CSB into the limelight to piercing, edgy effect; long-time sparring partner Skrapz adds a swift dose of street wisdom on “Energy;” Tiggs Da Author contributes a soulful flourish to “NIC.” Elsewhere, UK drill’s crown prince Headie One glides effortlessly on “Ringaling,” while Afrobeats boyband NSG prove the exception to the rule on playlist bait “Airplane Mode.”

The rare confessional glimpses on tracks like “Intro” and “Energy” are what sets this album apart from Nines’ previous releases. But when he raps on the former “This shit got my blood pressure high/I just wanna be free like some doves in the sky,” he could equally be talking about the new demands of his music career as the stresses of street life. He sounds most free when he’s spitting thin gruel about weed, money, and blowjobs on the swaggering “Clout.” As he pulls himself from the bucket, he’ll need to decide which crabs to fling back into the brine behind him.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Nines - Crabs in a Bucket Music Album Reviews Nines - Crabs in a Bucket Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, September 04, 2020 Rating:

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