Meet Loyle Carner, the reflective rapper who can definitely hold his own.
It’s the personal things that matter to Loyle Carner. His new single Tierney Terrace touches on cherished memories spent with his grandparents and the problematic relationship with his biological father. Of that track and those on his ‘A Little Late’ EP, he tells me over the phone, “There’s definitely a lot of rose-tinted glass scattered about on most of the songs. I think that’s just about where they come from: it’s about writing about things that have happened, and reflecting on them.”
BFG is a softly affecting opener for that debut solo release, written in response to the death of his stepdad. It’s part of the direct approach that’s key to his songwriting and it’s the fact these close, personal ties extend to his collaborators that meant he was able to write it. The most regular credits for production go to Rebel Kleff, a longtime beatmaker who was put in touch with Carner by a friend as “he was making beats with no raps and I was making raps with no beats”. Since that first intro two or three years back they’ve become inseparable. “I wouldn’t be able to open up and record [those tracks] with anyone else,” he explains, “he’s the only guy that really knows the ins and outs, you know.”
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that he holds up Kate Tempest - along with Bob Dylan, Common, Jehst, amongst others - as one of the songwriters he looks up to. A drunken starstruck encounter with her, followed by a call to mutual contact Dan Carey at the Speedy Wunderground label to pass on an apology, led to Carey putting them together to record a track for his one-off 7” imprint. The result was Guts, in which he and Tempest wonderfully play off one another over a beat of discordantly spliced samples. Released at the tail end of last year and picked up by 6 Music, it paired him with one of his heroes and also gave some added momentum to his solo material.
That said, he’s still willing to reach out of those circles to find people that he clicks with. With Tierney Terrace, for example, he was initially wary when contacted by its producer Utters, but after some to-and-fro it became clear that "he was a stone cold hip hop head who also knew how to make a lot of money through pop”. It seems, then, like it’s just about finding the people who can slot in alongside the close circle who are already the motivation for and subject matter of his music.
His connection to XL-signed fellow South Londoner King Krule has been mentioned in interviews before, but he’s reluctant to paint himself as having much of a connection with his contemporaries. “I know people who know them, but I don’t really chill with them. I don’t really feel like I’m part of a scene, I feel more like an outsider looking in. Which I’m cool with," he says. "Everybody seems to be doing their own thing, and I’m just doing mine.”