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Wretch 32 'Growing Over Life' review

Henry Lewis reviews the third studio release from the Tottenham MC.

Henry Lewis

Date published: 2nd Sep 2016

Image: Wretch 32

While grime MCs are often renowned for Twitter beefs and diss tracks, their sense of community is a powerful thing. It's also only in this world of music where the artists at the top use their collective influence to back their pals.

In the run up to the release of Growing over Life, Wretch 32's third studio album, some of the biggest names in grime took to their smartphones to back him. 

Skepta, JME, Giggs and Kano all voiced support online, and it makes you wonder; would you have seen The Kooks, The Fratellis and Babyshambles bigging up the new Pigeon Detectives album back in the day? I doubt it.



With or without big name endorsement, this album more than stands up for itself. It is in fact brilliant.

Different to his peers, Wretch has opted to follow a more hip hop approach so jarring synths and deep basslines are replaced with brass and violins. The percussion is sparse and reserved, while mid-album track '6 words' is strictly vocals from the 31 year old.

There's only opener 'Antwi' which really conforms to the genre with a fierce lyrical delivery and sinister trumpets throughout. 

The track is a tribute to Richard Antwi, who was considered by many as 'the Godfather of grime' and passed away earlier this year. At the time Wretch wrote about how Antwi gave him his first record deal and the track reflects his evident sadness and anger.

The real gems of this album are the straight up hip hop tracks - and there's a good few of them.

'Pressure' and 'Take Me As I Am' for example are both built up on quintessential r'n'b beats with the former including the insightful chorus: "Even my mum put pressure on me/ then my son put pressure on me/ even the slum put pressure on me/ but pressure makes diamonds."

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The latter features the vocals of Jordan Thomas and Kranium, evoking memories of early 00's slow jams while the Knox Brown collab and latest single 'All A Dream' samples Notorious B.I.G. with great success (listen above)

Later on Laura Mvula lends her gorgeous voice to 'Something', returning the favour, following Wretch's appearance on her latest album The Dreaming Room.

'Church', the album's closing track begins with the refrain: "I could have been in jail on a Monday instead I'm in church on a Sunday" and grows into something incredible. It's a track full of lyrical insight and by the time you reach the gospel outro you feel like you've been on the journey of Wretch 32's life.

Contrary to its title, this record needs no time to grow. It's instantly listenable and Wretch becomes the latest English MC to release a top drawer record this year.

It's easy to see why his mates were all so excited about it.

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Like this? Check out Giggs 'Landlord' review