The evolution of Headie One

Words by Brinsley Chadavenzi

Chance The Rapper once said on Blessings (Reprise): “The people’s champ must be everything the people can’t be”

This is true of Headie One; in his ascent to a celebrated anti-hero in the ever-evolving ‘drill scene’. Headie’s precision in cadence and picture perfect precision of tales with a grimy conviction set him apart from his contemporaries. The mechanics of drill operate and exchange on realness, dread and chameleon like bass providing a digital funk over an uncompromising delivery.  Headie sees these characteristics and Fred again… changes the instrumental space Headie works in on the new collaborative project ‘GANG.’

GANG uses vocal modulations in a way to highlight emotions in a way that Headie’s music hasn’t used before. Tempo’s another difference too, there’s a lot of empty space over the runtime of GANG, space that’s far away from the close bursts of drums that punctuated his earlier work. This makes the moments where they are, hit like a barrel. Charades takes all of Headie’s shining star qualities and places them a familiar territory of drill, but the sounds and subverted and calm – an ambience of piano chords and sorrow. 

It’s a breath of fresh air and a breath of new air to take in. You can dance to the rave-friendly Jamie xx assisted drums on ‘Smoke’ and head bop to the frenzied energy of ‘Know Me’ so the groove is never abandoned, only with different energies dictating the bounces. These elements can be either welcomed or found jarring – depending on how you feel about the sound and your relationship to the influences of the music. But it’s always the mark of a great artist to have periods of experimentation and testing, to deliver the unexpected – it’s just a matter of when, where and how the execution is.

Headie delivers with strong, consistent performances and emotional discoveries – both in lyrical content and vocal deliveries and digital atmospheres and Fred Again… directs these with a keen eye on juxtaposition whilst being aware of how to work with Headie’s strengths. It’s up to us to take it in.


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