Words by Gerry Otim
In the 20th century, during and after the Second World War, an influx of West Indian workers from the Caribbean were brought over to the cities across England to help rebuild the country. This led to places such as Handsworth in Birmingham becoming a home for many, where a prominent African-Caribbean community had formed. Since then, a raft of prominent artists has risen from the area such as saxophonist Andy Hamilton MBE, reggae band Steel Purse, singer and songwriter Ruby Turner MBE and Poet Benjamin Zephaniah.
Carrying the torch today for West Indian-born musicians hailing from Handsworth is drill artist M1llionz. Since the release of breakthrough singles such as “North-West” and “Y Pree”, M1llionz has progressively garnered a loyal fan base. Prior to the release of his debut mixtape Provisional Licence, many were anticipating what a body of work from M1llionz would sound like. It is safe to say he didn’t disappoint.
The 12-track project is blessed with guest feature appearances from the likes of fellow drill artist Headie One, chart topping rapper AJ Tracey, fellow Birmingham musician Lotto Ash and West London rapper/producer Jevon. The list of producers credited on the tape is just as reputable as the features, with Jevon, HoneyWoodSix, AbelThePlug, H1K, Bkay, GHOSTY, TSB and Fanatics all contributing.
The intro starts the journey and sets the tone for the tape, with M1llionz in reflective mood as he recounts tales of life prior his rise to his success: “Growing up, nothing good in the city. Just different murders in the Birmingham mail”.
The theme of surviving the trials and tribulations of being a young black man in Birmingham are present throughout the tape. “Pedestrians” is the follow-up song where M1llionz paints a picture of life growing up in the Midlands: ‘If Brum town was a game what would it be called? “Call of Duty Zombies”.
Hit release ‘Bando Spot’, sees M1llionz sample 50 Cent’s smash hit ‘’Candy Shop’ featuring Olivia. M1llionz pays further homepage to 50 Cent whilst again recounting life prior to becoming a musician: “I got the magic bricks, I’m the drug doctor Never ran off on him ’cause my plug proper.”
Other standout songs on the tape include his collaboration with Headie One titled ‘Air BnB’, where the pair go back-to-back and completely shell on the Ghosty and Bkay production.
His admiration for music from yesteryear shines through on the tape. ‘Mobbin’ sees M1llionz pay homepage to Michael Jackson’s catalogue with a range of entertaining references and flows from hit records ‘Smooth Criminal’ and ‘Billie Jean’.
Furthermore, a sample from Brandy and Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine” is used on the title track and lead single ‘Provisional Licence’ where he links up Ladbroke Grove’s very own AJ Tracey.
The use of skits within music is somewhat of a lost art. However, M1llionz uses them effectively to narrate a journey with a woman – from the start to the end of an eventful night.
It is very clear M1llionz is not only proud of where he grew up, but also of his heritage. This is clear through his unique yet captivating flow, point-blank lyricism and distinct use of cadences and patois within his music. The tape is his opportunity to display his creativity and flair on the mic and he doesn’t disappoint
In an era where we as consumers are swamped with projects containing more songs than is necessary, the decision to make the tape 12 tracks was refreshing. We are given a concise and sharp insight into the story of a young black, Birmingham born, Jamaican man – who has remained authentic to himself throughout his journey so far.
Stream Provisional License here