Review of Insomnia by Skepta, Chip, and Young Adz

Worlds collide on the new unexpected project from Skepta, Chip and Young Adz. The differences between North and South London, Grime and Drill, and old and new are all juxtaposed against each other. Or rather, they could be. For an album that’s the brainchild of the cream of the crop for both Grime and Drill, Insomnia is largely neither. Noticeably built on a foundation of rattling trap that’s been imported from across the pond, the woozy, slow paced beats drip with dark humour and punchlines. Released on his label, it’s an arena that clearly favours Skepta’s smooth drawls, and Adz and Chip are forced to adapt their signature brands of aggressive rap.

To embellish on this, Chip has been relegated to a weird position on the album as his lyrics aren’t bragadocious enough to confidently stand next to Skeptas, but he simultaneously sounds toothless next to Adz, who switches between listing a pharmacy worth of drugs and threatening opps. The exception is on Waze, where Chip leans into his position as a veteran, challenging rising rappers to take his spot with classic wordplay and biting adlibs. With a little coordination this could have been avoided though, as it would have given each member of the trio some breathing room.

Young Adz is an interesting inclusion. With two rap powerhouses already present, his role is exclusively as a singer. However, behind a thick film of auto-tune and post-production his voice lacks character, leaving this listener wondering if the last member on Insomnia couldn’t have been a dedicated singer. On Mic Check the trio take a stab at replicating the success that AJ Tracey saw last February with his Garage throwback. However, while the beat is bubbly and syncopated, none of the emcees deviate from their usual style or cadence with the exception of Adz throwing in a brief Craig David reference.  

Insomnia should be taken at face value, and enjoyed for the terrific beats and chemistry between the trio. Beneath the hood, the project is a mess of contradictions and missed opportunities, and the wildcard inclusion of Young Adz will surely stunt the marketability of the project. It may have succeeded at capturing the zeitgeist of current British rap, but it struggles to retain any cultural significance greater than that.

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