The UK music scene is so many different things but nothing of the style that Kojey Radical created by dropping In Gods Body.
The album is a 13-piece composition of a new body of work clocking at just 46 minutes, making for a succinct project. Radical continues to play within the intersection of spoken word, grime, jazz, funk and autotune as he has since previous album 23Winters. But ‘In God’s Body’ is different, not only does it show that this 24-year-old Hackney, East London native has matured in his skills, it shows experimentality and innovation, it’s London through and through, distinctly human and yet political.
The album title begins a conversation about the innate divinity in each man and woman. Rather than God existing as some celestial being, is it that everyone who raises his or her voice is a deity of their own? Kojey Radical is unapologetically black and his convictions tear through the noise of mainstream UK sound. Being a black man in Britain, the heart of a once global empire and in which, conversations about blackness are often derailed by ‘at least we’re not as bad as the Americans’ is a challenging position but Radical revels in rebellion declaring “all I want is 40 acres, a mule and my respect” on After Winter, referencing the reparations owed to the freed slaves. These reparations never materialised and as such Radical, in his After Winter video, takes up arms. He manages to combine very ‘Welcome to the Terrordome’ aesthetics of black militancy and mischief with a soundtrack of revolution of “taking it all back for the ends.”
Radical is not always sounding the revolutionary battle cry, he shows versatility by switching up the vibe on Nostrand Avenue. The song remarks humorously of his travels in New York in which Nostrand Avenue is actually a major street, and an encounter with some apparently very interested ladies who liked his music, particularly “the chorus, the song didn’t have one.” An attribute I rate really highly in artists is the willingness to innovate. Just as Stormzy’s album Gang Signs and Prayer was widely lauded for its own brilliant combination of gospel with grime. Radical manages to prove that far from being limited to the fierce lyricism he does so well, he’s also able to keep it chill and rap on a calm jazzy beat about girls trying to finesse. ‘Calm and collected, we all have to eat, I respect it.’ Clearly, he doesn’t mind.
“A king in my past life, I stand in my own body, born again, bar God, I prove myself to nobody” is the pugilistic introductory line to Kojey’s verse on Icarus. Icarus was a Greek mythological figure who created wax wings to soar through the skies and abruptly felt mortality when he flew too high and they melted. On the track, Radical talks of his origins, his growth and the contradiction of his hubris with the vulnerability of love. This tune is a dream and arguably the best on the album, enlisting the soft tones of Collard and Shola Ama to sing the hook “I hope you don’t see the day they clip my wings,” to highlight his insecurities of not necessarily being the beacon of strength and black masculinity he exudes. Growing up an ordinary son of immigrants in London and being as talented as Kojey Radical adds a different dimension to fame. Ascending through success has brought happiness to his home but can it last forever? The use of the saxophone adds a special beauty to Radical’s curiosity as to whether “God could be a woman,” and Ama’s declaration that “ I’ll take you in if you fall from the sky,” is a sweet twist to the myth.
Superhuman is iconic. The listener is immediately engulfed within the centrality of sacrifice, growth, and blackness to Kojey Radical’s experience. This is not a traditional song; the expressive tones of the actor and director, Michaela Coel, read out a poem touching on race while the soulful Obongjayaar, a Nigerian artist mournfully introduce the track. “With coloured pigmentation, you must accept that your historically pivotal leaders will be more than likely be killed.” Nat Turner, Fred Hampton, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur and Malcolm X, and countless activists for the racial equality and liberation of black and brown communities faced death or were killed in the line of their work. The poem finishes on a note of hopeful expectation though, stating that one should ‘keep dancing’ to spite the oppressor.
The song Mood is much more familiar territory for the UK scene but still manages maintain Radical’s penchant for ingenuity. With a more aggressive beat and flow, “if you weren’t prepared for the heat, then leave the kitchen,” is a message that rings even more true when listening to it. The song manages to combine the visceral, staccato rapping style of the classic grime forefather Ghetts with the slow purposeful flow of Radical. This song is confrontational, challenging listeners if they like him “at his darkest.” Or at least his most grimey.
With Dynamite featuring Tamera Foster and Pote, we see a flagrant disregard for his critics, this song is a rude awakening for false friends and lovers. An electric, techno pitch-correction adds an unearthly effect to his voice which mutters the song name for the chorus, of course explosives are far more effective at burning bridges than simple flames, and Radical seemingly has no time for those whose “words slice like knives,”, though he has even humour to joke “if you could see through the wordplay, wouldn’t have f**ked in the first place.” A skeletal beat changes significantly as Foster jumps on for a monologue. “The more you kill me with your words, the more I am at peace,” Who can bring down a person who places no value on the words of their haters? Dynamite reveals Radical’s willingness to play with various sound effects to create whatever sounds best sonically and the melding of various flows and styles on the same song builds a new but still defiantly UK sound.
Poetic, unapologetic, experimental and versatile. In Gods Body is new style of album and just the latest stage in Kojey Radical’s development as the artist to watch on not just the UK scene but globally. No one is doing what he’s doing and it is with slight sadness, I must say that if he was based in the US, he would achieve such recognition. But in answer to his question, “would they even miss me if they knew that I was gone?” Yeah bro, we would.