Headie One & Fred Again... - 'Gang' Album Review
Updated: May 22
By Danny Dodds
Headie One has been cursed for some time now in being one of the best rappers in the country who consistently finds himself repeating himself on the same, dull drill beats. Every time Headie One makes any noise, he inserts himself directly into the musical pulse of the nation with tracks like '18Hunna', 'Back To Basics' and 'Both' giving him a firm but fleeting grasp of UK Rap's sound. While his last album definitely gave him some hits to keep him in the public consciousness, this new collaboration project with producer Fred Again sadly won't have the same appeal, which is a shame as GANG presents a fantastically creative nugget of UK Rap.
Never has UK Rap sounded so spacious as Headie One takes a bold step back, prioritising a sinister and unsettling atmosphere over bars, letting producer Fred Again do most of the talking across GANG. Carving it's own strange niche, GANG isn't quite Drill and it isn't quite UK Rap, instead it takes sounds from both (pun intended) and mixes them around into a slow cooker of UK Bass and R&B. All these sounds are tied together through Headie's sombre and melancholic outlook on the typical Drill lyricism, sounding more and more disheartened by the minute.
This all works to create a project that is dripping in interesting ideas when compared to the boring and repetitive project it could've and frankly should've been. The majority of these ideas are executed flawlessly, like the beautiful 'Judge Me' interlude featuring the heavenly FKA Twigs, a track that is honestly brave in the context of Headie One's formulaic Drill roots. 'Know Me' and 'Smoke' featuring UK legend Jamie XX also present tangents from the traditional UK Rap sound as they venture into classically UK Bass sounds, providing easily the most upbeat and exciting moments on the record.
Not every track across GANG is incredible, as 'Charades' remains a fairly consistently standard Drill track and some of the vocal effects on tracks like 'Gang' reach for a sound that, while clearly ambitious, really is better left untouched. But for the most part, I admire Headie One's ambition on this project, as every corner of it feels cleaned and looked after, as if Headie and Fred Again meticulously constructed the dark crevice of UK Rap this project claims. Whether you like it or not, GANG brings with it something I would love to see from more UK Rap acts, a sense of excitement and risk.
Listen to the album below: