Loyle Carner – ‘hugo’ Review 

Kitty Houston shares what she thinks of London-based rapper Loyle Carner’s latest album ‘hugo’…

Prior to his debut album ‘Yesterday’s Gone’, Loyle Carner had crept the dark corners of London before cementing his career with his second studio record ‘Not Waving But Drowning’. His poetic rhymes began with exploring significant themes such as friendship and love, and slowly began to shift focus towards a difficult understanding of his heritage and a strained relationship with his father. Having suddenly found colossal fame, Carner’s timid vulnerability quickly felt over-exposed.  

During the creation of ‘hugo’, Carner honourably delves deeper into these topics admitting to complex and overwhelming confusion about his identity – daunting topics which most mainstream artists swerve. The birth of the album began during lockdown which simultaneously hosted a cultural movement against structural racism resulting in many of the tracks exploring his sense of belonging. ‘Nobody Knows (Ladas Road)’, reflects on facing racism without the Black community’s full embrace, including striking lyrics such as “I told the black man, he didn’t understand / I reached the white man, he wouldn’t take my hand”. Carner’s tone in this track is particularly notable as the rapper transitions into frustration and anger – emotions which are highlighted all throughout the album. Adding further to these emotions is the heavier music accompaniment; tracks such as ‘Hate’ replace jazzy beats with powerful synths and violent drums.  

(Photo fetched from Spotify)

Following his performance on The Graham Norton Show, Loyle explains the titling of the record which is named after his car. During his childhood, Carner experienced a difficult relationship with his father. However, in lockdown, his father taught him to drive, creating a safe space for difficult conversations to be had in the car; “when you’re in a car you’re not looking at each other, so there is no confrontation / you didn’t have to see heavy lines land on the other person. / It was really quite a beautiful thing.”.  

Having newly become a father himself, the rapper is shadowed by constant self-hate stemming from his complexities with his father: “you can’t hate the roots of the tree, and not hate the tree, so how can I hate my father, without hating me”. 

He reflects on the time spent without him, and by the end of the album reaches an understanding of his absence, demonstrated in the album’s outro ‘HGU’; “I forgive you, I forgive you, cause I know that it’s within in you, and I’m better when I’m with you”.  

(Photo fetched from NME)

Carner’s third studio album ‘hugo’ feels extremely pivotal for the young artist as he discusses heavy topics initially masked by that of earlier work. His harsh honesty when discussing such complex issues feels liberating for both the writer and listener as he does so shamelessly with poetic genius. With the composition of the album remaining so personal, it works to enhance the writer’s relationship with his listeners as we are invited on a journey to self-understanding and acceptance. Both Carner and fans owe great gratitude to this album as it has provided not only clarity but brought to light beautifully terrifying honesty.  

Carner’s sold out hugo tour commences this February.  

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