Protect Novelist.
All Costs.

Words: Yemi Abide

“I’ma win a Grammy from my bedroom,” said Novelist in a recent tweet, a mission statement of his intention to bring prestige and glory back to grime. Sure, the genre has been in something of a renaissance so far in 2020, thanks to our resident godfather/wind-up-merchant-in-chief, Wiley, and a handful of others. But away from the spectacle is a Lewisham-raised artist with his hand firmly on the pulse of what grime represents.

Since the beginning of the year, and in fact his whole career, N-O-V has been driven to make a difference wherever he lands, and things definitely haven’t been the same for grime since his arrival. Making a splash as a precocious upstart spitting over a minimalist Mumdance bassline on 2014 single “1 Sec”, the then 17-year-old was intricate in his flows and delivery, barring his way into the attention of many. It was evident he had studied the greats, and the way in which he’s negotiated his position—by his consistently high-quality productions—is reminiscent of our legends. His arrival, in the context of grime’s so-called ‘revival’ of 2013-2016, was a breath of fresh air because he carried himself—physically and lyrically—like a prodigy, an artist representative of a young, fresh generation primed to take the baton. Many will puff their chest out and say they’ve ‘stayed grime’ through thick and thin, but Novelist lives it every day, uncompromising in his approach. His career is still early, but it speaks volumes that at such an early stage, Novelist has achieved what most grime MCs will never.

A Mercury Prize nomination in 2018 for his debut album Novelist Guy—released independently via his own MMMYEH record label—placed him in an elite group of grime artists to be recognised by the music industry, separating him from the MCs of his generation. Even if the award bypassed him, his acknowledgement was enough of a W for the scene, the DIY, self-sufficient dream coming true once again. The music spoke for itself; years of honing his barring and production skills were crystallised on his debut as he transported listeners to a sonic dystopia—a hyperbolic time chamber set to the year 3018, let alone 2018. The sinister tones were levelled by incisive lyricism, by Nov’s trademark braggadocious bars, introspection and social commentary, representing the often sidelined black youth of the inner cities. Offering them a voice to vent their frustration and general ambition, Novelist served as a general at war, commanding the cavalry into the frantic journey known as life. In the years to come, we will remember Novelist Guy as a seminal release for grime.

The 23-year-old is as self-reliant as they come, even going as far as rolling by himself as he proudly professes in his bars. His attitude, reminiscent of revered Western hero Lone Ranger, is symbolic of his path, as no one gave him what he has; he’s earned it all through force of will, creativity, a devoted faith in Christ and an insatiable drive to be the best.

And he’s only getting better at making music, as evidenced in his brand-new Inferno EP. With production that sounds like Dr. Dre if he grew up on Déjà Vu FM, Novelist consolidates himself as a mastermind of the genre, of cracking the code and standing tall as a pure grime artist. Tunes like “Break Bread”, “Major Player” and “Active” are up there with some of the more personal tracks he’s put out and with further insight into his mentality, Nov is the most focused he’s sounded throughout his entire career. The Inferno EP marks a hellacious start to his 52 Weeks Of Fire instrumental series and, with another EP, Rain Fire, promised in March, he’s set to systematically flood the market this year. Much has been said about the new generation and where they stand in comparison to the olders, but Novelist is a transcendent star, laying adjacent to any and every grime era. His skills are such that he can’t exactly be pigeonholed into one generation; he’s one of one in this grime thing. And, lyrically, he’s proven he can swing with the best of ‘em, whether that be clashing Cadell or shelling down next to Chip and Skepta.

Over the years, through beat tapes like Be Blessed and projects like Reload King, Novelist has shown his production skills have taken a major step forward. He’s easily the most versatile grime artist of his generation, as he proclaims on “Break Bread”: “Man ain’t on the vibe I’m on, that’s the vibe I got.” His music also stands parallel with his burgeoning career as a political activist: he has spoken out about youth violence, protested with the Black Lives Matter movement and publicly endorsed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during the 2017 general election. Channelling his experiences into action, Novelist has shown that he has much more to offer the scene than just beats and rhymes. His voice is one through which his and younger generations can identify and use to channel positivity into their lives.

Well on his way to leading a Hall Of Fame career both as a musician and social commentator, the feeling is that, despite his catalogue, despite the recognition, Nov is only just getting started. Still as fresh-faced as he was as a younger entering the scene, he exhibits the same hunger to continue making his mark and cement himself as a great. Grime will endure peaks and valleys for as long as it’s around but with this Lewisham don proudly waving the flag, it will at least have one unequivocal, dedicated representative.

Posted on February 20, 2020