If you’re a dubstep head or junglist, you may already know UK hip-hop artist Potent Whisper from 7-man heavy-bass collective We Are Dubist, a group with whom he has performed at numerous prestigious events. If you’re a UK rap fan who veers towards more conscious lyricism, you may have heard of him on account of his affiliation with The People’s Army, a Brixton-based hip-hop movement that aims to change opinions through positive lyrics. However, the London rapper of Greek-Cypriot descent first caught my attention back in April of last year with his groundbreaking debut EP ‘Meta-Phor-Play‘, a smorgasbord of hip-hop treats with an uncanny diversity of themes and emotions expressed through his own unique, free-flowing stream-of-consciousness delivery. His style is, at least in some ways reminiscent of Jehst’s, but set instead to faster rhythms and tempi, giving him a greater sense of urgency to that of the laid-back drawl of his UK hip-hop forebear.
Potent’s latest release, titled The 1 EP is another exhibition of his intricate emceeing skills, his penchant for the expressive rather than the punchline-heavy, and also his friendly, amicable personality. What I think really sets Potent apart from other artists in this category is that he achieves a careful balance in his music: lightly suffused with comedic sensibilities, Potent’s style isn’t overtly “conscious” or didactic, but with it I sense he aims to ensconce the listener into his unique perspective of things than imposing it upon them. His themes run the gamut from religious iconoclasm, the scars of past actions, to a highly innovative new concept in Potent vs Whisper, a track in which he battles himself, or rather, does battle with both the good and evil sides to his conscience.
For the most part, Potent’s lyricism is elusive and cryptic: meandering through creative narratives, skipping from one multisyllabic rhyme-scheme to the next with effortless fluency. It takes a lot of skill to rap like he does; cramming a lot of information in his verses whilst maintaining double-time precision is no mean feat.
As a backdrop to his lyrics (which I’m sure would translate seamlessly to spoken-word poetry if he were so inclined) is some beautiful and evocative production. Divine Rights emcee/beatmaker Cystic especially, brings accompaniment that is both crisp and atmospheric: an irresistible mix of soul samples (including an eccentric Russian female vocal sample in ‘L.I.I.D.I’) , boom bap and lurching instrumental sustains. Jamey Pearce crafts a delectably simple beat spun by a loping string sample in ‘Dried Rivers’, while Dirty Stanz (also of Divine Rights) adds an edgy and synthy malaise to ’Potent vs Whisper’. Other, guest features include Bamalam (also of Divine Rights), female singer Nanci Correia who bestows her gorgeous vocal work to the mix, and U.S. emcee Cr0okKid.
The 1 EP is a quality release and, quite refreshingly for an EP, is a decent and concise length. Though there are some minor issues with mixing and mastering in there, the overall package is weighty and its contents assertive and powerful. Overall, this is really unique and innovative hip-hop from an artist I’m sure will continue to make waves in the scene, so long as he carries on in his characteristic, highly creative vein of form.