Soundtrack To The Struggle; the title couldn’t be more apt.
Since the release of Lowkey’s debut album, Dear Listener, back in 2009, hip hop fans across the globe have been awaiting the next instalment of wisdom to be cast from the lips of the former Poisonous Poet. On November 16th, his supporters were appeased.
The 26-track album allows the listener to gain an insight in to the beliefs, opinions and thoughts of not only Lowkey himself, but a generation of disenfranchised youth who feel estranged from society and without a voice.
The album opens with the title-track, Soundtrack To The Struggle. The track sets the solemn yet inspirational mood which appears throughout the album. He raps “This album has been in the making a quarter century, born to bless the beat and rap over recorded melody, I knew the truth, since I was a small little boy; I am a product of the system I was born to destroy.” Fitting sentiments as although this is Lowkey’s sophomore effort, for me it translates as his first, in the respect of it being an articulate reflection of his life up to this point; rather than the years between his previous effort and now. Albums of similar foundations of maturity have previously made for classics [Reasonable Doubt, Get Rich or Die Tryin', The Message].
The album flows effortlessly between it’s insightful skits [detailing seminal speeches relating to the album's content] and emotional lyricism, laced with soulful samples and female vocals. Too Much sees the divine voice of Shadia Mansour passionately chant the chorus over the Lauryn Hill sampled beat, as Lowkey discerningly comments upon the detrimental effect money has on us as a society, and people. The track urges the listener to question their own motives and evaluate their priorities. What’s that? A rapper with no concern for money? It would seem so…
The highlight track on the album for me, has to be Dreamers. The track documents the death of a close-friend and his own brother, both by suicide. “I won’t go near the grave, but in my dreams he appears the same, then I get closer an see his face as clear as day; he looks me deep in the eyes and I hear him say “Sometimes I really really hate myself, sometimes, I wish that I could change myself, sometimes, I don’t wanna give no more, but sometimes, I just don’t wanna live no more.”” Ultimately, the track demonstrates Lowkey’s ability as an artist and lyricist; attributes most usually overshadowed by misinformed prejudices from many of the rapper’s critics.
As the album moves on, we reach another notable favourite, Blood, Sweat and Tears. The track features UK hip hop veteran and East London native, Klashnekoff. The uplifting song sees the two emcees triumphantly chant “I’m still here! Pushing after several years, I’m still here! Standing strong never in fear, I’ll be still here after the dust settles and clears, I’ll be still here after the blood, sweat and the tears.”
As we move toward the latter half of the album, we are greeted with, My Soul; this track sees Lowkey demonstrating his defiance to conform to beliefs which contradict his own. He name-drops well known organisations in an effort to explain he cannot be sponsored or “advertised” by companies which he feels carry out illegitimate practices. The track possesses a wondrous, soulful ambience.
Dear England, a letter penned from Lowkey to England. He comments on the recent UK riots and poses various questions surrounding the death of Smiley Culture and controversy around Rupert Murdoch’s levy of political power. I would argue, this track would serve as a pertinent education to those still bemused at recent events occurring in the UK’s most impoverished and deprived areas.
As the album winds down, we’re greeted to the melancholic sounds of Haunted. The first lyrics to be uttered are “My brother died when I was 18, now I’m 24 and I keep having the same dream..” Lowkey expresses his emotions regarding the suicide of his brother over the despondent beat whilst reflecting on his own recent misgivings in comparison. He talks on how his late brother haunts his dreams and also addresses his legal and criminal woes relating to the perception of his music and life, he declares “When I was 18, my older brother killed himself, now I’m 24 and I’m sittin’ in this flippin’ cell.”
To conclude, although the album does touch on Lowkey’s outspoken political beliefs, ideals and opinions on such tracks as Obama Nation, Terrorist and Long Live Palestine, fundamentally it’s not about the glorification of himself, nor his beliefs; he is simply philosophising the issues plaguing our society. Do not be fooled in to believing you have to be in some way politically active to enjoy this album. It is a multi-faceted piece of art, documenting the experiences of a young, half British, half Iraqi man, whom finds himself in 21st century England, alienated from either side of his heritage and pondering the atrocities interlinked with the two cultures.
- Ash Houghton
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