Kojey Radical – Cashmere Tears Review:
‘Where should I begin? Man upon a mission still a martyr for the vision, uh/Had to find my voice when the people wouldn’t listen, uh/Sacrifice my peace, normal level double digits, uh/Sacrifice my pride, rather die than lose my spirit’.
The introductory line of ‘Where Do I Begin’ perfectly prepares the listener for what to expect from Kojey Radical’s latest EP Cashmere Tears. Starting a project is not an easy task and, in the digital age of two-minute songs to boost streaming numbers, audiences have shorter attention spans than ever before. Kojey Radical shows within 15 seconds why you should take notice of him. Delivered passionately over a pulsating bass line, Kojey exhibits his exceptional rapping ability. He uses rhyme schemes well, he sets the emotive and thematic precedent for the EP, and he expertly uses his cadence and deliverance for the drums to come crashing in - as if he was a boxer psyching himself up for the ring. Kojey’s opener acts as an advert for the sound of London. Not only does he literally spell it out in ‘H-O-X-T-O-N is where I been’, the combination of gritty drums and blaring trumpets seems to resonate with the alternative sound of hip-hop this side of the Atlantic. I could probably write an entire essay focusing on how good of an album opener this is, but I feel the need to talk about the brilliance of the project as a whole.
Kojey Radical seems to fit in a niche area of British rap and R&B. He somewhat sits outside the tried and tested subgenres that are most popular with UK audiences, but close enough to them that his music has some familiarity to it. I had only heard of him through work he had done with others, such as his numerous collaborations with the rising popstar Mahalia, or fellow East Londoner Jay Prince, and it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where Kojey fits in the British soundscape. He doesn’t make 140bpm grime tracks that many outsiders think constitutes all British rap. He doesn’t make boom-bap beats akin to Loyle Carner or High Focus. He doesn’t commit to solely singing R&B like a Jorja Smith type. Yet Cashmere Tears is one of the most accessible projects I have heard from an artist I did not frequently listen to. The EP seems to be split up into four categories: hip-hop with hard-hitting drums, alternative R&B, funk, and gospel. They are all distinct yet overlap. This is exemplified by the West Coast influenced, synthesiser-heavy ‘2020’ transitioning into backing singers, powerful brass and electric guitar picks in the next track ‘Can’t Go Back’, followed by a classic example of modern R&B beats in ‘Sugar’ with an excellent feature from Amaarae. All of these songs have similar tonal characteristics, but differ enough to keep the listener curious as to what will come next. The one constant throughout the EP is that each song seems to have an outrageously good bassline and, with limited information online about writing credits, a lot of praise has to go to the production team behind these songs.
What sets Kojey Radical apart from many other rappers is that he excels in using his voice as an instrument. Rather than use a monotonous, formulaic flow that lets the beat do the talking, he demonstrates his exceptional musicality by adapting to whatever instrumental he is on. His vocal expression on the bar ‘I ain’t scared of you n*****, I be Bernie with the mac’ during the opening verse of ‘2020’ uses dynamics in his voice superbly. He switches from shouting the first half of the line to a more reserved delivery in the second, reflecting the emotive language in the sentence. Compare this to his Bootsy Collins-esque singing on the funk track ‘Hours’ and it is a complete juxtaposition. There are so many rappers who are clearly talented wordsmiths but cannot engage the listener through performance. Not only can Kojey do this, he does it exceptionally across multiple genres that argue his case for being one of the most versatile artists in the UK.
The recurring theme of this album is reflecting on a former feeling of depression, most notably heard on the hook the EPs single ‘Can’t Go Back’. The lines are autobiographical, painting a picture of Kojey’s varying interactions with his detrimental mental health. Yet for such a dark topic, he often conveys it in an almost celebratory manner. The aforementioned track features gospel backing singers alongside upbeat piano chords, whilst the funky album title-track ‘Cashmere Tears’ is made for dancing. The EP closer ‘Last Night’ is an ode using his religion as a guide to feeling happy once again, using fantastic gospel voices to reach a euphoric climax to end the show. There are themes of love and family throughout the project, but the evolution from anger and aggression in Kojey’s voice in the first two tracks to his self-acceptance in the finale portrays a captivating story of his journey for the audience.
This project is a great introduction for those, like myself, who have never dived into Kojey’s discography. He shows what he is about, the immense talent he has as a musician, and perhaps a show that he should be talked about in a similar way with the nation’s favourite rappers. It seems like we are approaching the peak of popularity in UK urban music, if we haven’t already, and Cashmere Tears demonstrates why there has been such a huge increase of interest in the sound. For many, this album will be scratching the surface; the next step is going back into Kojey Radical’s past work and finding what we have been missing out on.
IOM Rating: 9/10.
About the author: Jules Marks is a 21 year-old writer, DJ and producer from London who is currently living in California for a year on a university exchange program. He studies music technology at the University of Sussex but his musical hobbies are extensive, ranging from writing to DJing to producing his own beats. Jules co-founded and co-writes a music blog called AVSJ, where he and a friend write reviews, curate playlists and even host a podcast. He also hosted a radio show on URF Online, and has DJ’d at numerous clubs across London and Brighton.