K-Trap: Smile? review – terse, punchy raps-to-riches flow | R&B

The Brit awards feel increasingly pointless, a dripping tap in a streaming world. With successful bands at a historic low, the industry is reduced to nominating rap duos to fill the best British group category. Earlier this year it was Headie One & K-Trap, who have made one mixtape (Strength to Strength) but are very much not a group. Still, the recognition is nice, as south Londoner Devonte Perkins alludes to during Victory Lap. He’s tagged Smile? as his debut but it’s been trailed by years of mixtapes, collabs, features and, er, another debut, 2020’s Street Side Effects.

Nineteen R&B, trap and drill tracks fly by in 45 minutes, suiting K-Trap’s terse, punchy flow. Drill’s lack of bigger beats lets vocals become a substitute for percussion, and Perkins has always been brilliant at landing end syllables with a fighter’s flourish while precisely conveying meaning. Mostly it’s “where I’ve come from” (estates, traps, jail) and “look where I am now” (Harrods, hotels, Surrey), as our hero bravely puts up with being showered with cash and female attention. Yet there’s excellence in the way he unfolds crime narratives such as Mobsters, and raps-to-riches freestyle Grown Decisions is superb too.

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