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Guvna B - Secret World album review

Along with Dwayne Tryumf and Jahaziel, Guvna B is probably the most recognised Christian rap artist within the UK. As one of the pioneers of the scene that emerged in the late noughties, (despite his young age at the time) Guvna has been a mainstay ever since. Since his emergence around 2007, Guvna has put out six projects including two albums and two mixtapes. If you look around the rest of the UK, it is clear that he has had the highest work rate and the benefits have been in the quality of his output.

Now releasing his third album, Secret World, there is a large amount of maturity to Guvna’s music. The early youthful exuberance and passion behind some of his more feel good tracks have now been replaced by more pensive and calculated subject matters and topics. Whilst this is no slight on the content of his music in the past, it is clear that Guvna has encountered some testing times in his Christian walk (as most of us have) which have influenced his music.

The album begins with Home (E16), a song that displays Guvna B’s talent as a very skilful MC. For me, this is Guvna at his best. At close to 140 BPM, he reminisces about his youth to the bouncy JimmyJames production. It’s a great start to the album and sets the tone well.

JimmyJames executively produced the album, and the artist-producer team up is something that we have seen recently in the UK with the likes of SO and G.P. The upshot of this is that you tend to get a lot more synergy between production and lyrics, as both know the emotions that the project is trying to portray. The one risk from it can be an album that has too many similar sounding tracks. Secret World doesn’t face this problem as JimmyJames delivers sonically.

 

Stylistically, this is very much a grime album. The recent resurgence of the genre means that this project fits very well in the current climate within the UK. Never Too Late (ft Favour) is testament to this. The song has a very old school grime feel, due to JimmyJames sub heavy production. The chorus is one which is relatable to any Christian who is feeling discouraged with their own actions, or the actions of those around them. In the chorus, Guvna spits ‘it’s never too late’, declaring the message of hope that runs alongside the Christian faith.

At times there is even an old school garage feel on some of the tracks, especially tracks 9 and 10, Show Me The Way and Time Ago. Whilst many in the UK have tried to replicate the current popular sounds of the US, it’s refreshing to hear a very much UK sound with Guvna embracing his roots.

As someone who has been following the UK Christian rap scene for the last 10 years, Show Me The Way in particular stands out. From a scene that was booming from around 2008 -10, we now have relatively few artists. Some of the problems have been well publicised, so I’m grateful that Guvna addresses these issues with an open heart, not professing to know the answers to every question, but still professing the truth.

For many, the stand out song will be track 6, Nothing But the Blood. The song utilises a sample of the well-known hymn of the same name and features veteran gospel artist Deitrick Haddon on the chorus. The song showcases Guvna’s versatility as an artist, as this is one of his strongest rap performances. There is a real sense of honesty as he breaks down the core gospel truth of Christ being all-sufficient.

 

In terms of features, the strongest performance comes from Nick Brewer on Track 7, Someone’s Watching. It’s very rare you hear a bad verse from him, and he continues that trend here with a typically ear catching verse packed with complex flows. While I’ve noted this as one of the stellar features, none of them seem out of place. It was particularly nice to hear C4 on Time Ago representing Birmingham in a genre that has been dominated by London over the years.

The fact that there are two international features from the US on Secret World showcase the reputation that Guvna B has built over the years. The final track includes a feature from Beleaf of the US collective Dream Junkies. The song samples Guvna’s most recognised and celebrated song, Kingdom Skank, giving it a new twist. What surprised me the most was delivery and flow that Beleaf brought to the party. Usually more accustomed to the trap or boom bap sound you find in the US, Beleaf rides the instrumental like a London native.

Overall, I would say that Secret World is the best project that Guvna B has put out to date.  The artist and producer combination with JimmyJames works well and although most of the songs would be considered grime, there are a few hip-hop songs with strong vocal hooks which means there’s something for everyone.

As the album is true to its UK roots, for me the one thing that is missing is a back-to-back cypher. The lack of which probably speaks more of the lack of UK rap artists around at present, and it also probably wouldn’t have fit in the context of the project, but still, a good cypher never goes a miss!

Guvna B's album Secret World is now available on all digital platforms and in HMV stores up and down the country. Buy on iTunes here.

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