Jim Legxacy is a rapper, singer and producer rolled into one, though it’s his vulnerability that is his greatest asset. You can hear all of him in his music: his mid-twenties age, his Nigerian heritage, his Lewisham locale, but also his time spent in art school, his deep connection with past experiences, maybe even the complexities of his time spent with no fixed address, a time which formed the foundation of his latest release. Stylistically, his new mixtape brews infusions of UK-tinged rap, emo, Afrobeats, pop, RnB and club that could surely only come via London. It’s not the breadth of genres that impresses – it’s how naturally cohesive they become.
This melting pot approach is par for the course for plenty of new music now, J Hus being a standout artist blending genres with ease. Jim Legxacy’s emo croons are the threads stitching everything together on homeless n**** pop music, influences drifting in and out with a hazy seamlessness underneath it all. Drake and Dizzee Rascal are the most evident of those influences, though the mixtape operates in line with works by RMR, Morray, Sadboys, Lil Peep, Travis Scott and Ruff Sqwad. iLoveMakonnen is another artist creating in this space but where his voice is viscous and thick, Jim’s is a different element, flowing less like a liquid and more like a breeze. Jim’s voice is formless, no constraints, frictionlessly gliding over light beats by some otherworldly means.
“old place” is a prime example of the Jim Legxacy sound. “I know I probably shouldn’t take you back, ‘cause since I been broke, you don’t wanna hold me down,” he sings to himself as much as his ex over his own layered harmonies, acoustic guitar licks and vocal samples from South East London drill outfit Harlem Spartans. Then a Jersey club kick starts hammering away and the track lifts off, up and away. Considered alongside its video, featuring the artist and his crew signing along in unison on the DLR train from Lewisham, very much up close and intimate with the camera lens, “old place” epitomises the mixtape: introverted beats and bangers to be sad with the gang with, alone together out in the world, not quite tears in the club but rather melancholic, melodramatic spiralling.
It’s the use of sampling that takes the production on the record from good to great. Often samples occur like random thoughts, fragmented and incidental in a way that brings the mixtape to life. For all the ideas that properly take shape across these 12 tracks, there are countless flourishes, details and distractions they negotiate with. “mileys riddim” might be based around a Hannah Montana sample, but it’s bookended by an audio watermark from Nigerian digital music platform iROKING.com. In tying these sounds together, and in performing alongside the vocal sample as if it were a real duet, Jim Legxacy constructs his fantasy soundworld, unconstrained by temporal as well as physical reality.
From mainstream dance radio recreations to Frankenstinian, industry-manufactured hits looking to cash in on catalogue rights, there’s every reason to be sceptical of nostalgia-exploiting samples of chart-topping tunes. Still, there’s something about “candy reign (!)”’s incorporation of “Candy Rain” and “Wifey Riddim” – blueprints for two different generations of overly intense tragic-romantic men – that feels more sincere than cynical. In some sense they’re low-hanging fruit as samples go, however Jim Legxacy has the vision to use the former for much more than a hook, and transforms stanzas from the latter into a bridge. And when he sings along, it doesn’t feel like he’s trying to drill an earworm in for an easy win. Instead he’s sharing a common collective memory, inviting listeners in on a dance with the past with all the manner of a man whose heart rests comfortably on his sleeve.
The memory is shared once again on the title track, where Jim raps, “No silver spoons in my hood, just empty pockets / no candy raining, so we just singin’ to Candy Rain.” When snippets of Dizzee Rascal’s “Stand Up Tall” are interwoven with the track and included at the end as a coda, it plays as if it’s been chosen for some personal resonance. Conversely, his inclusion of Unknown T’s “Homerton B” on the mixtape opener seems to underline wider acknowledgement of its modern classic status, while daring to sample a tune less than five years old as a throwback in the same way it would “Candy Rain”. Jim Legxacy’s unrestrained approach to sampling feels as natural as his singing, and it’s through this he makes real his soundworld – somewhere all the past and the present takes place at once.
Jim Legxacy – homeless n**** pop music is out now via digital platforms. Stream or download it here.