After four years of silence E-Mence is back with his eagerly anticipated new album, ‘Live Fast, Die Young’. The Wearside MC returned to hip-hop last year after a long period out of the game, appearing at open mic events across the North East, he quickly made a name for himself as one of the slickest performers in the region.
‘Live Fast, Die Young’ features an impressive 19 tracks, including two skits and one interesting musical ‘intermission’ (we’ll get to that later). The skits might be just about the only parts of the album that seem like they shouldn’t be there; they attempt to frame the album as having some sort of linear narrative, but the album doesn’t feel like a narrative driven piece – the tracks act more like separate works of art in a gallery, rather than chapters in a book.
Now with that minor criticism out of the way, let’s actually get into the music. Typical of E-Mence’s style, each and every word on this project is delivered with clarity and conviction, making it an easy listen. The entire album captures a distinctly dark and gloomy atmosphere, with E’s vivid and sometimes graphic imagery transporting you to a grey dystopia, in which it always rains and the people rely on drink and drugs to sedate themselves from the outside world (don’t lie, you’re imagining Sunderland now too, right?).
Tracks “This City” and “My Reality” encapsulate this overall melancholy feel; on “My Reality” in particular E gets introspective, rapping about his own experience of being held down by a typically gritty northern working-class lifestyle, with drugs and music being his only relief. This track also is the first on the album to feature E singing, with a hook that wouldn’t be out of place on a Linkin Park album. But, it sounds just as good over slow piano backed boom-bap beats.
“Patiently Waiting” is the first of only two features on the album, with fellow Wearside MCs 90BRO and Listaa jumping into E’s dark world. 90BRO’s verse sticks much to the tone of the album; it’s about struggle, about putting countless hours of work in and still not getting the respect you deserve. Whilst ‘Live Fast, Die Young’ does fit into a lot of the tropes you’d associate with your average ‘struggle rap’: drug taking, being the best rapper despite being ignored, ‘life is hard’ ect., E-Mence packages it all in a much more appealing way with his ability to effortlessly construct this gothic, horror-movie world in which he lives.
Sonically, the second half of the album rips the ‘struggle rap’ tag right off, as E-Mence finds more confidence with his singing voice. The album is broken up by the aforementioned “Intermission (Dead)”, this short 2.30-minute track is without a doubt the strangest on the album – but I loved it! It begins with E-Mence being introduced onto a stage with sirens in the background, followed by a repetitive piano key, some creepy laughing and what sounds like a dusty record being played. E-Mence then jumps into what I can only describe as a musical number… and it sounds great; If the rap stuff doesn’t work out then E is surely destined for a career in the West End.
“Light in the Dark” stands out against everything on the album, sonically and lyrically. It is literally the only light standing out from the darkness of the rest of the album. E’s surprisingly soft and tuneful singing voice accompanies bars that question the notion of religion; the album touches over the subject of faith frequently leading up to this track, where it’s tackled head on. The lyrics address God directly, asking if he exists then why would he make the world so cruel? It’s truly a heartfelt track, the only track in which E-Mence shows some vulnerability. It’s clear he feels that he’s reached out to God in the past but felt ignored, leading him to lose faith entirely. This is 100% my favourite track on the album. It shows that E-Mence isn’t afraid to stray away from the subject matter or sound that might be expected of him – this song is a gamble that definitely paid off.
Overall, ‘Live Fast, Die Young’ is a fantastic album and wouldn’t be out of place in an ‘album of the year debate’ as it stands. The album is an introspective portrait of a tortured artist that breaks the mould of what’s expected from a “North East hip-hop” album.
1.Welcome Home (Skit)
6.Live Fast, Die Young
9.Patiently Waiting (Feat. (90BRO & Listaa)
10.Double Wide Eyes
12.Light In The Dark
13.Seasonal Depression (Feat. Tom Dingwall)
15.Never Be The Same
16.Take Me Out
17. Bury Me
18. Lived Fast… Died Young (Skit)
19. My Soul (Feat. Tom Dingwall) [BONUS TRACK]