BackRoad Gee – ‘Reporting Live (From The Back Of The Roads)’ review: a rising star in the UK’s rap scene

BackRoad Gee – ‘Reporting Live (From The Back Of The Roads)’ review: a rising star in the UK’s rap scene

Fearless and incisive, the London rapper delivers a masterclass in street economics, resulting in a triumphant debut

London-born, Congolese rapper BackRoad Gee has broken major ground in the UK rap scene. From dropping his breakout track ‘Party Popper’ at the start of 2020 to collaborating with hip hop figureheads Jay-Z and Kid Cudi for Netflix’s upcoming Western The Harder They Fall, it’s fair to say that BackRoad Gee’s ascension through the rap solar system has been enthralling to watch. It’s no surprise an equally outstanding body of work should match the lofty heights set by BRG’s own accomplishments – and his debut mixtape, ‘Reporting Live (From The Back Of The Roads)’, is just that.

The mixtape kicks off with ‘Live In The Flesh’, a concise, fiery two-minute banger kitted out with a domineering flow that channels the spirit of a young DMX with visceral dog-barking soundbites throughout. A highlight comes in the form of ‘Enough Is Enough’, which features grime legends JME and Lethal Bizzle. The three MCs radiate bucketloads of chemistry as they enter the ring for a verbal sparring match; BRG dishes out some of his signature home-brewed language with lines like: “See this ting it ain’t jammin’, uh (It ain’t) / Grr (Bow-bow) / That’s the semi-automatic.”

Elsewhere, ‘Ancestors’, a collaboration with east London collective NSG, is a delightful change of pace. Swapping corrosive rap heaters for a jazzy afroswing backdrop, BRG and NSG unite to dish out melodic crooning and sticky, party-ready riddims.

‘Crime Partners’ sees BRG team up with frequent collaborator Pa Salieu for a pensive, piano-assisted moment. Throughout, BRG and Pa drop anecdotes that explore the perils of street life in nail-biting detail: “Sticks and stones will break my bones / Words can get you killed / Ask a mother where her son is and how she feels?”, raps BRG in a weary tone. The track delicately walks the line between both of the MCs’ bulletproof rap personas, and the real people behind the du-rags, diamond-encrusted chains and designer tags.

The tape is a steadfast glimpse into what BRG has to offer to the rap game, effortlessly morphing old school grime nods, drill spins and afroswing melodies together for a diverse yet cohesive 18-track effort. The tape can instantly shift from nonchalant to menacing, with weighty, animated performances and seismic ad-libs placed throughout a good majority of the tracklist.

Typically, when diving into lengthy rap projects – especially mixtapes – they’re often bridled with filler tracks and skip-worthy roadblocks to pad out the runtime. On this tape, though, it’s clear BRG has made a conscious effort to make this project as fluid and well-sequenced as possible, cramming brief earworms one after the other. ‘Reporting Live’ stands as a crystallisation of BackRoad Gee’s studio superpowers and artistic progression thus far.

-Niall Smith

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