The summer of 2017 saw some great debut studio albums come out of the North East hip-hop scene, two of which were Sunderland based rapper Reali-T’s ‘Stay Tuned’ and Middlesbrough based producer and rapper Naughty40’s ‘Chicken Shops & Tequila Shots’.
Both of those albums had one track in common: “Don’t Chat”; a four-minute metaphor fest about knowing when to ‘shut your mouth and know your role’ (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, 1999). This turned out to be the spark between Reali-T and Naughty40 that lit the roaring fire that has now come to be their joint EP ‘Still Tuned?’.
The six track EP has been 100% produced by Naughty40, with the Teesside native only stepping behind the mic once for the hook of “Red Light Runnin” – a bold track that sets the tone for the rest of the EP, as Reali-T aggressively states his claim as one of the best in region whilst dissing anonymous rappers that he feels are levels below him – “Keeping it all the way real, I’m still pissed off that I ain’t got a deal, but I still gotta deal with dudes with less skill, that’s why this year I’ve got less chill.”
Reali-T hit the nail on the head with that bar; ‘Still Tuned?’ sees him come with an entirely more aggressive, assertive and headstrong energy than he had on 2017’s ‘Stay Tuned’. However, this doesn’t mean that T’s lost his sense of humour – ‘Still Tuned?’ is again packed with T’s signature tongue-in-cheek punchlines – “Certain man veterans handing me credit, gas me up so much I think they’re anti-Semitic.”
As a producer, 40 has done so much more than just provide the beats and one hook on this EP. 40’s influence on how Reali-T approached making this EP, from his flow to his demeanour in the booth, is arguably equally as important as his sonic contribution. In a recent interview with RIDE Music, Reali-T said on working with Naughty40: “I think that guy’s a genius you know. His beats feel hand in glove with my style of writing. The main thing is that he’s honest; his beats are fantastic, so I could just be rapping rubbish over them and they’d still sound good, but we have this working relationship where he’ll tell me if he’s not really feeling it and I’ll understand.”
The final track on the EP, titled “Biggest Fan”, stands out as one of the most interesting cuts from the project. Reali-T is unusually introspective, telling the story of a girlfriend that’s becoming increasingly disillusioned with their partner’s pursuit of a successful career as a musician. The song begins from what we can only assume is Reali-T’s POV, before switching to the girlfriend’s POV for the final verse, making for a rare and candid glimpse into the life of a struggling rapper – “So I’m standing there looking like an arsehole, because I didn’t get paid for my last show, I said performing is priceless no barcode.”
Overall, ‘Still Tuned?’ is a solid EP that showcases both of these artists at their best; 40’s flawless production is matched in quality by Reali-T’s intellectual and hugely entertaining manipulation of the English language. This EP does exactly what all good EPs should, it leaves you wanting more. Specifically more rapping from 40, but we’d settle for six more tracks like the ones on this project. Fingers crossed the duo will continue to work together and hopefully bring us a full-length album in the future.