No Aaliyah… But for this artist and his supporters, it has Been a Long Time. The name of Hackney’s Own, Marcus Grey’s debut EP. Let me make it clear, whilst he has been quietly grafting on his own solo endeavours, he has in no way shape or form been quiet overall. As 1/3 of London collective “The Woods” (with Joel and Day Decosta) they released not one but two EP’s “Spring” and “Summer” last year. Both EP’s are a clear example of how well their musical styles compliment and elevate each other. [Sidenote: take in “Interlude: Above” on the Spring EP and tell me if the beat doesn’t make your face look like your sucking a sour sweet… ya’know scrunchy face?! Lol yeah THAT! I’ma let unuh decide which EP goes harder (yes, I have a favourite but I ain’t saying nothing else) and be sure to look out for the final two installations of the “Seasons” project from The Woods later on this year.]
Soooo, we move. Grey finds himself now able to bring forth what has kept him locked up in the lab for months, late nights and early mornings. An 8 track solo EP which displays his R’n’B and soulful grooves (that he was originally recognised for) alongside his alter-ego “Drogo”, a heavy hitting wordsmith. There is a consistent balance of both flows throughout which makes for an easy listening musical journey. An EP with a narrative. An EP that is raw, unapologetic and authentic. Upon speaking to the man himself, I came to find that he saw this EP as a form of therapy. Specifically focusing on chakras. In his own words, “Each song is like a therapy lesson in its learning to understand each other”. 7 chakras, 7 life lessons: Time of Reflection (Crown). Time of Clarity (Third-Eye), Time of Balance (Throat), Time of Foreshadowing (Heart), Time of Triumph (Solar Plexus), Time of Trials & Tribulations (Sacral) and Time of Recovery (Root). After listening to the EP a few times, these therapy lessons and chakras definitely reflect in the order of the songs and the narratives within them. [Please note: the order of the songs actually moves BACKWARDS through the chakras for those of you that are spiritual, like myself. I know that the root is the first chakra, so don’t try come for me!]
You know me by now, I like to pick out my faves and leave the rest to you… I thought about doing it with this review. But to be honest, I feel like I should pick apart each track and get you ready for what you are about to take in. Kicking off with a reflective introductory track “Hard Enough”, Grey joins forces with soulful singer Shillem who takes first verse and opens up the track with a female perspective. Grey accompanies her on the chorus then Drogo makes a firm appearance on the second verse. Focusing on his first therapeutic lesson, this song is most certainly reflective. A tug of war between mind and heart, between give and take, between pushing through or letting go. This track gives us a clear indication of the effortless transition between the two personalities to expect throughout. I was about to bait out the beat for the second track… but I wanna see how many of you know your choons dem! If you play this with your babes and they don’t know the sample THEY’RE TOO YOUNG FOR YOU BRO / SIS! (I’m referring to the ORIGINAL sample by the way but let’s see if you clock both). “Wait for It” *nods* yeah, fitting title because beat aside, there’s a handful of punchlines and a mellow version of Drogo to take in. As we move through chakras we see more reflection making room for clarity. In his own words “Truth only…” at the start, he speaks on a time where Grey sometimes becomes completely immersed in his creative space. So much so that a woman of his affections may begin to wish he occasionally took a break so that he could put his extra-curricular skills to the forefront. I’ll let your imaginations move through this one.
“Sunrise & Sunsets”. As we are steadily in spring now, we can once again appreciate those! However, this song definitely has a strong summer vibe to it. Next chakra – the throat, this track is indeed vocal. Explain? Ok so, Grey is clear on wha gwaan inna dis one, “Love me til the sun comes up and f**k me til the sun goes down”. *cough* Sorry then, fifty shades. Therapy lesson – balance. In this we also get a nice story of the early stages of flirtation between man and woman. Mix and blend! I was gonna hold on to this gem as well but if I keep all the lil saucy bits hidden then all my efforts in writing this is in vain! Now, I’ve probably given it away with the amount of patois I’ve used right now *eye roll* (we all know I do this habitually anyway!) BUT as a Jamaican, of course I appreciate the likal patois in this song. For those of you that know Marcus personally, you will be aware that he had strong Jamaican influences around him growing up. It shows. But THIS is the best part… Yoruba! The. Man. Speaks. YORUBA! Yeah, bet ya didn’t know THAT! Now you’re probably intrigued and running to press play. Good. Then I did my job *wink* Moving on…
The Heart. “And you don’t belong with me, so you don’t have to let me go, doesn’t always have to be something more… I’ll be on my way.” With his alter-ego being Drogo, it makes sense that he would have a Khaleesi… right? Well, this Drogo did and in this version, Drogo survives. GoT fans will see what I did there! Oooiii, I’m slick with the wordplay ya’nah! I digress… “Khaleesi’s Interlude” is very raw in its depiction of a broken relationship. It also sees Grey really showcase his musicality in providing the beat purely through vocals. Yup, no real life or Logic, Reason, FL, Pro Tools (whatever you man use!) instruments used on this track. The end of the track provides an opportunity for Grey to elaborate on his intentions and purpose behind his music. Take it in… “Khaleesi’s Interlude” transitions nicely into “When I’m Gone” and the next therapy lesson (triumph). A powerful message in remembering who you are, your purpose and getting back on your hustle. I, personally, liked the nod to another alter-ego dynamic mentioned in this track. Again, let’s see if you clock it. As to be expected, a catalogue of punchlines is embedded throughout, especially highlighted by Grey in the chorus. The lyrics complimented by a “Brasstracks” sounding beat, with jazzy sax and vibrant electric guitar vibes filtering through.
Lower back, the spine, the supportive structure of the body… the sacral. “Saved”, a breakdown of the trials and tribulations of a relationship. Aight so boom, this one yeah, I’m gonna be the most opinionated on (well, the next track might get stripped apart too still) because I really want to understand if I am on the right page or if this is just my interpretation. It seems to me in this one, Grey / Drogo, is trying to work his way through the past and being in the present. I.e. some of us destroy or get rid of all things ex related. Others, might hold onto one or two things. Grey admits to holding on to one item before replacing it with something else (I won’t give too much away). It also comes across as like an innuendo for shedding skin. There is also an underlying narrative of Drogo wanting company to being content in his own. Second verse will explain better… “go home” naaah, when you deep it please laugh with me. Yooow, Grey / Drogo – smh that was ruuude enuh dawg! LOL
The last chakra (not spiritually speaking as we’re moving in reverse), the root. The second listed feature on the EP from rapper Rhymez (if you clock who Rhymez is then you are as wavy as me init? Safe. I’m liking all these likal hidden tings ya’nah lol). “Million Pieces” is about recovery… an honest account from both men about trying to work through the processes of communication and it ultimately resulting in a less than favourable outcome. Both Drogo and Rhymez flow effortlessly and mirror each other well whilst painting a vivid picture. Wait… wait. 7 therapy lessons, 7 chakras. But I did say this was an 8 track EP. Grey was feeling generous in throwing in a bonus track… “Back Roads”. To be honest, this is a straight Drogo track. In my opinion. The beat is gritty and the wordplay matches. For anyone that has followed his musical journey, you may notice his salute to “Bob Lee” (go pree his inventory). The thing I like most about this one is that it ends how the EP began. A full circle, much like life… Or linear if you will, like chakras.
Overall, this is a complete solid body of work from Marcus Grey (Drogo) that will nicely carry us through until the release of his debut album. Oh? Of course, there’s an album coming. I just don’t know when. However, whilst you wait, you can pre-order B.A.L.T on iTunes TODAY (22nd March) and be the 1st to hear the first and last tracks. For the rest of you… Been a Long Time will be out a week later, Friday 29th on all platforms. Maybe not such a large gap between projects aye Grey? *salute* or as he would say… “Whooooof!”
Stream/Download his latest below