It would be easy to label Che Lingo an underrated talent. The self-proclaimed ‘Wizard of Wandsworth’ has inconspicuously mastered a blend of soulful melodies and unflinching, quickfire raps since making his suave entrance onto the scene with 2015 Soundcloud gem Knock My Hustle. Yet, a quick glance at his list of achievements brings the idea that his talent has gone unnoticed into question. With millions of views, a FIFA placement and collaborations with Grime heavyweights, Lingo is widely heralded as an experienced frontrunner within the ‘Alternative’ UK Hip Hop scene. His unique formula of fusing R&B, Hip Hop and Grime elements is perfected on debut album The Worst Generation, further refining the already-polished sound familiar to his fanbase. Boasting a notable assuredness in his artistry, Lingo explores themes surrounding inner-city strife, black love and self worth with an indelible confidence.
Lingo employs the wide range of musical talent at his disposal to amplify his sources of inspiration. His ability to switch between infectious sung hooks and hard-hitting rap flows is flaunted on free-flowing tracks such as South and the spacey Make Me Free. The biographical opener is Che’s ode to his South London upbringing, revealing his remedy to the drama that surrounded him was to “mind his business” and write his lyrics. It’s a duality that is explored throughout the project; Che is clearly influenced by his surroundings and embraces the lessons learned from hardships, claiming they ‘made a man out of a mouse.’ Yet, lamenting the inevitable hardening that such experiences can cause, Che rues his disposition to keep his feelings inside rather than letting them out:
“Keep it in inside oh, don’t mean it’s right though”
This admission may surprise listeners at first, given his evocative portrayals of events that shaped him. But as the album continues, it becomes clear that music is a safe haven for Che, granting him the freedom of expression that he craves. From the introspective flows of incredibly soulful Bobbing for Apples to the justice-seeking racial commentary of amped-up single My Block, the rapper is never short for words, offering candid and thought-provoking perspectives at every turn.
Structurally, the album can be split into two distinct sections. Full of energy and zeal, the project’s first half sees Lingo in his high-octane pomp. Anthemic Black Ones epitomises the rapper’s full-throttle approach to music. The Ghetts-featured cut is pacey, with a piercing hook that sticks in the memory. But, whilst other artists may struggle to strike a balance, Che doesn’t compromise his honest outlook for radio-friendly quotables, unapologetically yelling “suffocating in my ends, I just need some time to breathe.” His willingness to guide the listener through his journey, however uncomfortable it may be, shines through even the most catchy of tracks. The rage-fuelled trap sound of Screw Face falls into the same category. Meshing a unique storytelling ability with an effortless skippy flow, Che details a stop and search encounter, interrogating his adversary “how am I supposed to relax, when you’re leaning all your weight on my back? Blud are you cracked?” With his direct questioning, he manages to capture a widespread feeling of cynicism towards police practices, maintaining the same potency exuded by preceding tracks.
A Bit Insecure represents a drastic change of pace and a shift in the mood. Still speaking frankly on his feelings, Che draws further inspiration from his vulnerability as he looks inward. Openly reflecting, “I’m insecure and in my feelings about a whole load of things I probably shouldn’t be,” gives an indication of the direction this stripped-back number goes on to adopt. Prior to this track, Che’s delivery was driven by emotions such as rage and scepticism. But as he opens up to address his lover directly, the rapper finds a new avenue to tell his story. Love, in its many forms, becomes the leading theme from this point onward, and it inspires new perspectives from him. The seamless segue into stand-out effort Dark Days catches the listener’s attention. Featuring a buzzing, lively bassline complimented by blissful harp accompaniment, a mellow template is crafted for Che and his accomplished guest Kojey Radical to flow on. The pair touch on pertinent themes such as self care, mental health, abandonment and the healing nature of love. Taking to Twitter to discuss the collab, Kojey explained how “individual journeys had to be taken for Dark Days to happen.” Considering the hard work put in by the pair, who share a similar stylistic space within the UK Music scene, to get to their respective positions, it is a collaboration worthy of celebration.
As the album winds down, Lingo doesn’t take his foot off the gas. Love Drugs is a pensive exploration into the addictive side effects of love and illustrates his emotional range. Offering a solemn perspective with his symbolic musings, the rapper hits the mark with subtlety, rather than brazenly forcing the metaphor down listeners throats.
As with much of the project’s often-sensitive subject matter, Lingo manages to apply a light touch, harkening the attention of his audience without compromising his composed demeanor. Throughout The Worst Generation Che Lingo’s messages are steadfast, his delivery is deliberate and full of conviction. It’s a bold debut that required a sharp tongue to tackle difficult topics, and Lingo does so with tact and poise.