Krept and Konan, the established rap duo from South London, put out a pair of albums two weeks ago in their first major releases since their return to the London music scene. The albums are drastically different in style: 7 Days feels more like a compilation of their attempts at different genres (with a few bangers thrown in), while 7 Nights is a collection of R&B slow jams. These albums demonstrate a commitment to their departure from the underground scene to pursue mainstream success.

For background, the pair started out in the London rap scene – a couple of youngers in polo shirts rapping about gang life in Thornton Heath. These early tracks and freestyles were angry and gritty; although not being heavily involved in gang activities, they shared experiences and stories of the people around them. And these raw lyrics (often set to an American hip-hop beat, or, very rarely, a grime instrumental) connected with some, and shocked others. The duo gained notoriety and eventually became one of the biggest names in the underground London rap scene. Their lyrics were smart and the wordplay was clever, referencing more and more obscure parts of London culture, endearing them to people sympathetic to their struggle. They received a lot of attention through YouTube channels like SBTV, and through their early mixtapes, some of which attained notoriety in the mainstream.

“While some tracks mark a return to their original flow, the remainder of 7 Days doesn’t make sense”

What really helped them blow up was the track ‘Don’t Waste My Time’, in particular the line “Excuse my French, I ain’t worried ‘bout nothin’”, which brought on an all-star remix with Coke Boys. The song brought them worldwide attention, with the likes of French Montana, YG, and Jeremih looking to collaborate. From there, they signed with Def Jam and did a heavily trap-inspired album, with features from loads of American rappers, slowing down their flow to appeal to their global fans. And this worked for them in terms of popularity: the track ‘Freak of the Week’ was blowing up everywhere, even if the signature Krept and Konan flow wasn’t that prominent.

See, I thought after the previous album in the States, they were going to return to London with their original flow, with the respect and weight of having made it globally. In fact, you get some impression of this on 7 Days: the track ‘Robbery’, released last summer, felt a lot like their old tracks. The play on ‘Jack in the Box’ in the first verse and even the reference to their first mixtape were reminiscent of Krept’s clever, cheeky wordplay. And when that came out, it felt like they had a sort of godfather status, putting this unknown rapper Abra Cadabra on, and surrounding themselves with the best in the scene. The penultimate track, ‘Last Night In LA’ (which is my favourite on the album, also released a year ago), had the sense that these legends had returned to their domain, equipped with better production and a taste of fame. Konan talks about their progression from the road to the stage, referencing the people he made it with and even the beef with Church Road.

“Maybe Krept & Konan are trying to hedge their bets on current trends, but it doesn’t feel like they care for the quality of the music”

Unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn’t make sense. Krept starts rapping in a silly Vybz Kartel style accent on the ‘Controlla’-sounding dancehall track ‘For Me’, which I don’t think he’s ever done before, and is certainly not known for. And ‘WoWoWo’, which they are trying to push as one of the main bangers of the album, has such a dull, plain hook; even in the verses they keep repeating those three meaningless syllables. The whole album feels like they’re just trying to create bangers in every genre possible: trap, drill, dancehall, afrobeat. Anything. Maybe they’re trying to hedge their bets on current trends, or just churning out generic tracks because it’s easy, but it certainly doesn’t feel like they care for the quality of the music. So in this sense, it feels very lost and empty as an album – more like a top 11 UK music compilation.

7 Nights is more together: the PARTYNEXTDOOR vibe combined with Nines-style vocals runs throughout. Actually, it does feel a lot like Nines’ ‘One Foot Out’, even featuring the same vocalist Hudson East heavily on both albums (which feels like a betrayal to their area). And the topics of the tracks depart from the usual grimy gang stories to stories of ladies and their promiscuous relationships with them. None of the tracks particularly stand out, but the consistent theme and interesting features don’t make it a terrible album.

I guess my main issue with these albums is the fact that they have abandoned the London underground scene to pursue fame. It seems that they want to change directions as artists to something more suitable for mainstream, although they haven’t really chosen the exact direction yet. It’s a shame as they are amazing lyricists, and it’s frustrating that they chose to limit their talent in a trade off for catchy hooks and palatable verses. They are definitely still in it for the hustle, which is admirable, and they have achieved a tremendous amount from humble beginnings. But hopefully we’ll still see them on those Link Up TV features now and then.

2 Stars

Artist: Krept & Konan. Label: Virgin EMI. Top Tracks: Last Night in LA; Robbery; Same Shit. For Fans Of: Cadet; Yungen; Nines. 78 minutes