After a hiatus from hip-hop Inja recently released the heavily anticipated ‘First World Living’ EP, and you can be assured that it bangs just as hard as his prior 2012 project ‘Bass Music Escapism’ where he left off. An artist gradually ingrained at the forefront of both hip-hop and drum and bass culture over the past two decades, his first appearance was on the 1999 ‘Delegates of Culture’ self-titled release, featuring on the Headcleaners mixtape in 2000 alongside hip-hop heavyweights Roots Manuva and Task Force. Just a few years later Inja started his own music label ‘Inja Nu Records’ to drop his first solo LP ‘The Suffering In Silence’. The ‘First World Living’ EP was dropped on Audio Danger Records, a relatively up-and-coming Cambridge based label that releases both hip-hop and drum and bass in the purest underground form, on November 17th.
Sumgii (Problem Child, LDZ) is first to make his presence known in Speaker Attack, dropping a glitchy bass-heavy instrumental which creates a grimey setting for Inja’s incoming verbal barrage, laying down his verses with a flow most artists would struggle to mimic, switching to truly breathless multi-syllable tempo’s to reinstate his reputation as one of the UK’s most relentless lyricists. Following this is Cam Shores, which takes an entirely different tone. 184 produces a sentimental beat with trickling piano keys and a soft percussion loop. Featuring heartfelt female vocals by Kimberley Newell for the chorus Inja self consciously evaluates life and recites his passion for a women with intelligence, a pleasant change from the misogynistic portrayals we’re used to hearing in rap music. Next comes the short and snappy Cooking Song which see’s Inja deliver a rapid recipe for brown stew fish with rice and peas, backed by pacy upbeat instrumental from Swiss producer Pierre Green which demonstrates Inja’s ease of dropping fast and furious bars even on such a contrastingly casual topic.
Greatest see’s another sentimental instrumental from 184, with stirring qualities similar to the ‘Cam Shores’ backing track. Inja questions the aspiration for wealth and greatness, recognising that greed is an undesirable quality because “personal gain with no friends can lead to some forgettable moments”. Inja questions the impact he can make as a “drop in the ocean”, coming to the conclusion that the “glow of happiness can be an infectious light” and citing love as the only instrument necessary to influence how one can truly determine greatness. Inja then winds down in Smoked Out, relieving the antagony off his chest before finding relief in smoking out over another laid back number from Pierre Green. Dan Gresham handles the production of the title-track First World Living, first inducing a dream-like atmosphere before implementing a soft dub beat with melodic guitar and bass instrumentation, overlapped by Kimberley Newell’s harmonious female vocals. Inja confesses the conflicts within his mind, praying for karma to eradicate the world-wide financial hierarchy and expresses guilt for having first world problems despite his privileged position. A really thought provoking rendition. The EP finale is a hectic one; Nothing’s Changed see’s Inja back in his comfort zone with a dark setting provided by a hype Bioviolence instrumental. The clue is in the title; Inja demonstrates the dynamism that he’s built his career on in a hard-hitting bout of bars.
Over the past couple of years fatherhood reportedly became Inja’s priority, however it’s clear that the studio break has not corroded his skill. Whether he’s dissing first world moaners or freestyling his favourite cooking recipe he’s returned with a more enlightening product than what we’re perhaps used to hearing from the Cambridge based lyricist, but backed by the productive might of Sumgii, 184, Pierre Green, Dan Gresham and Bioviolence his lyricism still remains just as raw as we remember. If Inja maintains this matured focus then 2015 shall undoubtedly have plenty in store for him.
Review by Ethan Everton
‘First World Living’ is out now on Audio Danger Records