In case you didn’t already know, Big Toast has steadily made a name for himself on the UK hip-hop circuit over recent years. From helping to grow notable independent label Revorg Records, as part of critically acclaimed rap troupe TPS Fam, to a burgeoning solo discography, and most recently as part of British mega-group Gatecrasherz, he’s certainly been stacking up quite the discography.
Ben81 and 1Boss, collectively known as Ill Move Sporadic, have similarly earned a reputation as one of the most exciting production duos the UK has to offer. From a partnership dating back to 2010, the two have steadily proven themselves as musical auteurs, with their raw, distinctive sound, attention to detail, and ability to pick fresh, exciting talent to grace their finished product. After the highly praised 2016 collaboration with Tenchoo ‘Panic Room 9‘, the producers were soon to announce another collective effort with the Revorg frontman himself.
In many ways, You’re Not Special is a spiritual successor to Toast’s well received 2016 collaborative EP with Sofa King ‘Save Yourself, Kill Them All‘. However, this time the MC’s delightfully misanthropic voice feels a touch more urgent, with a suitably unique soundscape from IMS to make it stand out as its own entity.
From the initial hypnotic nuance of opening track ‘Cult of the Individual‘, the album takes aim at its targets and pulls the trigger with no remorse. Whilst it’s certainly a response to a multitude of issues affecting society as a whole – political, economic, social – the album takes particular aim at society itself, often pointing a finger at the ignorant, self-adulating narcissism embedded in modern culture, and those who enable it.
The title track ‘You’re Not Special‘ is a particularly striking example of this, armed with sharp punch lines, a haymaker of a chorus, and guided by a high-intensity, crunchy, foot stomper from IMS. If you’re already a fan, then you’ve likely seen or heard it already, but if not, be sure to check what – for my money – may be the best UK hip-hop video of the year. In fact, do it now. I’ll wait.
Long-term Big Toast and IMS fans will be excited to hear Joey Menza appear as the albums sole guest MC, joining Toast in the booth for ‘Unspecial‘, and dropping his own signature flavour over another ultra-hard, delightfully dark beat.
‘Bumpy Town‘ is a remarkable track set to an eerie, synth-heavy, retro backdrop from IMS. Toast hits the beat, laying down some hard-hitting social commentary, and capturing the present state of the nation, to a level seldom met since Jehst‘s 2011 single ‘England‘.
‘Authenticity‘ deserves a special mention, because it perfectly sums up what truly makes this album stand out. This is grown-up hip-hop, with Toast’s lyricism lacking any of the fantasy theatrics, or ego-posturing found in a great deal of modern rap music. What’s left is an authentic diatribe on modern culture, and a clear perspective from a genuine voice in British hip-hop.
Overall, You’re Not Special is a true marriage of styles between rapper and producer(s), and the finished product ranks highly amongst their best work. Big Toast continues to be a stand-out, enigmatic MC, able to attack every issue with brutal honesty, intertwined with a relatable humour that ensures you crack a smile, even at the albums bleakest moments. IMS have put together an impeccably paced selection of beats here, providing the perfect tonal soundtrack for the lyrics to truly shine. As with their previous work, the production duo continue to show an impressive aptitude for bringing out the best in the artists they pair with, whilst definitively laying down their own unique signature on every beat that leaves the studio.
Now, if you’re one of those overtly optimistic ‘glass-half-full’ types, someone who received one too many participation medals, or for some reason a staunch Tory supporter, then it’s entirely possible that this isn’t for you. In fact, it may just hurt your feelings.
If, however, you have a passion for raw, authentic hip-hop, unfiltered lyricism, and find yourself frequently annoyed by the world you see around you, then get this. You won’t skip a track.
You’re Not Special is available now on digital, vinyl, and limited edition cassette. You can grab yourself a copy from the links below.