Bugzy Malone
The Great British Dream



by Benjamin Jack STAFF
May 15th, 2024 | 4 replies

Release Date: 05/10/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: He can charm you with a smile and a style all his own...

Boxer-turned-rapper Aaron ‘Bugzy Malone’ Davies is one of the best-known and most enduring figures in UK grime. Gaining attention for his no-frills rapping and garnering a good deal of notoriety in the 2010s due to his lengthy but entertaining beef with Chip (maybe you remember Chipmunk?), Bugzy has since managed to become something of a scene legend. Considering his status, not to mention his more recent branching out into film and even some (more than questionable) rumours about boxing Floyd Mayweather in the future, it’s not unfair to call him a true rags-to-riches success story. Now, ingratiating introduction over, here’s the rub: Bugz has never been the best lyricist. His wordplay is oftentimes questionable and his use of simile and metaphor frequently feel forced, trite, or just awkward. Nonetheless, his cool style of delivery, creative flows and aggressive energy easily make him a considerable rapping talent, whilst also being instantly recognisable due to his grime-atypical northern UK accent. Historically his quality has been more predicated upon his sonic atmosphere than his actual content, and although he has always covered relatable topics in his bars, he has seldom managed to produce rhymes that go beyond the surface level of their preoccupations. The Great British Dream bucks this trend somewhat by not only displaying Malone’s growth as a lyricist, but also as a figurehead for progressive stylistics within the scene. This is a surprisingly cohesive collection, comprised of bolshy heaters, confessional laments and emotional odes, and although not a great deal of these cuts can be counted among Bugzy’s classics, they are elevated by a slick attitude and near-flawless production style that accentuates the artist in a more multi-faceted manner than almost anything he has produced before.

The closest thing Dream has to a centrepiece is the theme of ‘identity’, relating to how Davies sees himself as an artist/ individual, how others perceive him, where these viewpoints overlap, and how the perspectives have shifted over time. As common a focus as this is within music, Bugzy has opted to include multiple songs covering similar topics that frame the specifics from an alternate angle. Whether this is intentional or not, the effect impressively consolidates the underpinnings and makes the whole experience feel very intriguing, even if the music itself feels quite par for the course. For example, ‘Big Steppin’ and ‘Movie Star’ primarily concern Bugzy and his turbulent journey to prominence, with both feeling like opposite sides of the same blood-spattered coin. ‘Big Steppin’ hones in on Davies ‘the individual’, with a confessional tone offering a retrospective on the rapper’s youthful misadventures. There's an icy intensity to the beat and delivery that makes it feel as though it is being related as a cautionary tale, and the yarns that are spun certainly warrant such unfiltered potency. ‘Movie Star’ diverges and offers a slick and cool autobiographical tirade with a more laid-back instrumental to back it up. Here, Malone ‘the artist’ asserts that his life was always like a movie even before his silver-screen success, and through his stylish descriptions quite deftly taps into the romanticisation of criminality, before shattering those misguided illusions. Similarly, ‘Blessed You’ and ‘Ladies’ principally focus on Bugzy’s lovelife and women at large, with the former being an idealistic but frustrated deconstruction of modern dating, especially relating to situations that percolate on social media. Davies allows himself to be insecure and vulnerable here, which is always quite a jarring switch, but he comes across well, offering insights and a surprisingly nuanced perspective over bass-heavy percussion and a catchy piano hook. The latter is a conscious ode to females who may cross his path, full of topical allusions to mutual respect, his fame, and the need for an emotional connection before anything else. Such double-fisted storytelling works wonders in lending depth to what otherwise may have been a fairly one-dimensional record, and affords Bugzy more authenticity as a human unafraid of letting his insecurities and regrets shine through in his musings and storytelling.

A somewhat unusual inclusion but by no means an unwelcome one, Malone’s Daily Duppy session finds its way onto Dream as the eighth track. Frenetic and menacing, it’s an album standout and the crown jewel for the release’s more bombastic cuts. Unfortunately, it’s also something of a microcosm of the issues found on the album, having a few questionable bars (‘the road’s still hotter than a chicken tikka’, identically rhyming the word ‘okay’ etc.) along with an awkward chorus that really detracts from the overall ferocity. Throughout the LP, lines like,

‘…I spent an extra twenty on my seats just so I know there’s nobody in my league’ – ‘Movie Star’

‘Blue lights on the street now
lookin’ like a Quentin Tarantino
she’s overheatin’ like a jalepeno…’
– ‘Lose You’

feel ill-thought out and somewhat silly despite the conviction of their delivery and the seriousness of the topic. Thankfully, considering the album runs at nearly an hour, moments like these are proportionately infrequent and don’t sour the overall effect too aggressively. For example, ‘Lose You’ is especially emotional with an impressive flow and catchy chorus, making it one of the more memorable album cuts despite the bar cited above. Moreover, it’s especially curious that an album with a fistful of unworthy lines should also be home to such solid stingers as,

‘I was dealing with some things that I still haven’t fixed
but it turns out trauma is the teacher of wisdom
we were just kids, who we kiddin'?
Twelve years into this trip and I still feel like I'm trippin'…’
–‘Beauty & The Beast II’

‘You didn't know Manny when the bally meant the strally's up
When I’m sayin’ Manny I’m not talkin’ about Pacquiao
It's funny how the table's turn
you're not Ricky Hatton, nah
tonight I have to kill a man
let me pull my bally down...’
– ‘Undisputed’

The latter example, with references to Bugzy’s Manchester roots, comes from the release’s best track. A heavy, uncompromising and personal cut with a boxing-centric focus, it has a furious flow and one of the most entertaining choruses on the album. It’s also one of the few songs where there isn’t a single lyrical dud, placing it head and shoulders above a lot of the surrounding material. In fact, despite the shortcomings found on many of the tracks here, there’s really only one complete gutterball; closer ‘Out Of Nowhere’. Feature TeeDee turns the piece into a bouncy house track that Bugzy then rhymes over, and it’s just as much of a horrible clash of worlds as it sounds. Interestingly, it’s purely in the amalgam that the selection becomes outright bad, as Bugzy’s contribution is as solid as always (not to mention the stones on him coming out of his comfort zone in this kind of way) and the electronic instrumental is infectiously bassline-heavy. Both elements in tandem, however, are each to the detriment of the other.

Given the dramatic switches in focus throughout Dream, it’s especially impressive just how consistent the LP is. The lineage of classic Bugzy cuts can be heard throughout the release, offering the distinctive menace but also the more thoughtful style of expression the MC is known for. He flexes, reminisces, pontificates and confesses, and it all feels thoroughly human and digestible. The lyrical content, although much stronger on the whole, still has elements that feel awkward and it’s unfortunate that there aren’t more tracks here that are entirely devoid of these flaws. Despite this, the heady flows and atmosphere are present throughout the entire project (up until the final track, at least), with the beats being almost uniformly excellent, and appropriately produced for the topic at hand. Considering the shifts in perspective on similar themes and the general heaviness of the content at large, the release certainly feels like something of a retrospective for the rapper, with reminiscence on his come-up and eventual success a common motif. Nonetheless, with its common denominator of ‘identity’ gluing all of the disparate elements together, the album feels very rooted in Davies’ present, and offers glimpses into his headspace that are both relevant and intensely personal. Not all of it lands and a lot of the material is far from his best work, but as a collection, this serves as a artistic waypoint and a bold statement for Bugzy, not to mention an ambitious declaration of intent for the future. My money’s still on Mayweather though.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
May 19th 2024


Bugzy has always been super hit or miss for me. He has insanely good songs like MEN III or Welcome to the hood, but also some real stinkers

May 20th 2024


nice to see grime reviewed, its a rare site on sput

May 20th 2024


The chipmunk beef is legendary. US mandem don't know

Staff Reviewer
May 20th 2024


Album Rating: 3.3

The beef with Chip was legendary yea, tbf there were good and bad sends on both sides. The best track to come out of the feud imho was Saskilla’s Chip Off My Shoulder though. Even though it wasn’t from the central figures the beat and bars were COLD, whole track was a violation

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