2022: The Year Of Receiving Flowers

Another year is in the books. As the Black British music scene continues to demonstrate that it knows how to thrive, you start to take notice of a few things: its durability, its tendency to shapeshift according to the whim of artists, and just how much the wider world is watching. Whatever your tastes are, fans were eating on the music front this year, which speaks to a dynamism within the scene that makes every day as exciting as the last.

We started 2022 pining for a new project from the Bouff Daddy himself, J Hus, thanks to a fake album cover and tracklist that circulated online. But while that never came to fruition, enough of our stars came through to make their presence felt. Stormzy re-emerged from the wilderness to make history, as has become his forte, with the release of a seven-minute rap thriller in “Mel Made Me Do It” and its ambitious, iconic music video, preceding the drop of his third studio album, This Is What I Mean. As if to remind the game that he really excels in this rap thing, “Mel Made Me Do It” was a lyrical exercise fortified by appearances in the video by Black British legends from generations past and present, while his gospel and R&B-flavours third album served as an emotional venture into his psyche. Released in late November, the feeling was that the year was up in terms of big releases.

But then Little Simz said, “Hold my rhymebook.”

Just over a year after her transformational project, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, for which she picked up MOBO and BRIT Awards and the 2022 Mercury Prize, the North Londoner blessed fans with a new offering, NO THANK YOU, in December, reaching the next stop of her one-way trip to greatness. Meanwhile, other so-called ‘alt’ musicians reached their own coronation moments this year. South Kilburn’s finest, Knucks, would prove his powers as an MC and producer on Alpha Place, an opus so rich in scope and storytelling that not only did it scoop this year’s MOBO Award for Album Of The Year—shared with Little Simz—but it united fans around the powers of an artist whose decade-long journey has now bore fruit. The same can be said for Kojey Radical, creator of one of 2022’s funkiest albums, Reason To Smile, a statement of intent that crystallised his years-long grind. Add projects by Loyle Carner, Jeshi, Louis Culture, FLOHIO and MINIKINGZ and music not considered mainstream had a stellar 365 days.

Making a case for this year’s MVP, however, was Brixton driller K-Trap, who had a year many would envy. Incredibly productive and impactful, he began with the long-awaited collaboration mixtape, Joints, with fellow South London spitter Blade Brown in March, before returning with the second instalment of famed mixtape The Last Whip by September. Both projects would crack the Top 20 in the UK Albums Chart, not only an impressive feat for Trapo but yet another marker of drill music’s endearing power as a musical movement. His collab with Skepta on the remix to his modern-day drill classic, “Warm”, also shook the room.

The legends and veterans we know as ‘road rappers’ excelled all year: Rimzee would reach new audiences with his 2022 tape, Cold Feet; Youngs Teflon’s one-two punch of Side A and B of All Eyes On Me Against The World were engrossing listens; and Blade’s efforts on the aforementioned Joints were indelible. Meanwhile, as we called it in January, the women of UK rap had a lot to say this year, with ShaSimone, SB, Cristale, Ms Banks and Deyah releasing impressive projects throughout.

While rap thrived, 2022 saw debates about the state of UK R&B reach a fever pitch, so much so that we had to address it. But for anyone who was paying attention, that part of the scene was on fire. From FLO emerging to redefine the girl group and scoop up the 2023 BRITs Rising Star Award to Bellah dropping one of the best projects of the year in Adultsville, as well as solid drops from the likes of Miraa May, Jim Legxacy, Nippa, Debbie, Shae Universe, Ojerime and countless others making waves, R&B proved to be as healthy and vibrant as it has ever been.

The same could be said for the jazz scene, which shined thanks to contributions by Ezra Collective, KOKOROKO, The Comet Is Coming, Oscar Jerome and Ego Ella May, among others. Not wanting to be left behind, grime had plenty of moments in the sun, thanks largely to the efforts of Blay Vision, whose “Cammy Riddim” instrumental was blessed by everyone from Skepta and Manga Saint Hilaire to CASISDEAD and Cadell, showing that nothing beats the incomparable energy grime offers. The efforts of Nia Archives, Hagan, Lil Silva, Bonobo, Shygirl and Eliza Rose also gave club music a real shot in the arm as the COVID-shaped cloud over the music industry cleared for good.

Whichever direction you’re looking at, 2022 has been very good to UK music. Whether this continues into 2023 is merely a formality at this point, because this country plays host to some of the most creative minds in the world doing what they love and, in turn, making our scene as exciting as we knew it always could be.

Editor’s Note: The playlist below is in no particular order.

Posted on December 20, 2022