Loyle Carner ‘hugo’ Album Review 

Loyle Carner is a truly exceptional artist. Since his debut album, Yesterday’s Gone, was released in 2017, he’s experienced both critical and commercial acclaim, with both a Mercury Prize and a BRIT Award nomination and performed at some of the biggest festivals in the country.

I’m a big fan of Carner. Not only was he the artist to help me to realise that rap lyrics aren’t just about how many girls men have sex with, posh Lamborghinis and running away from the “cop cars”, but his fantastic lyricism is something I haven’t heard a lot of artists recreate as well as Carner. His attention to detail isn’t limited to his songwriting either – but with everything. For example, the album cover to Carner’s sophomore album, Not Waving, But Drowning, an album with mental health at the centre, has a man drowning in water. The track list art has the man submerged in the water, where we can no longer see him, denoting the “a picture can paint a thousand words” connotation and is one which has stuck with me since.

On Friday, Carner releases his third album, hugo, a record which has really excited me. I’ve only heard the record’s lead single, Hate, which is one of my favourite songs of the year and gets me so hyped for the record. Can hugo live up to Loyle Carner’s excellent proceeding records? I certainly hope so… 


The first song from this 10-track LP is Hate, and what an opening it is. The track sounds so different to what Carner has done before, but has that unique Loyle Carner stamp on it, and that unique artistry is so hard to create, and three albums in, Carner has mastered it perfectly. The lyricism in this song is even stronger too, it’s the perfect opener, it gets me pumped to hear the rest of this record. Ladis Road (Nobody Knows)’s production is spine-tingling and resembles The Isle of Arran from Yesterday’s Gone, but yet sounds unique to hugo. Despite that, the real highlight is his songwriting – it’s absolutely sensational, speaking about his life with such rawness, the poetry resonates with the listener so well, to the point it’s tearjerking.

Georgetown is a thought-provoking, lyrically driven track. Starting with a gorgeous poetic speech and then launching into a gorgeous hip-hop beat, which fits the natural conventions of hip hop, but yet has a fresh feel, which I love. There are so many words to describe it, but yet I can’t! Going into the first song that isn’t a single, Speed of Plight is a lyrically driven song which has an electric guitar riff as its instrumental. The song goes back to basics with its feel, yet it still sounds different to anything else out there in the rap scene. It’s produced masterfully and the whole thing works in so many ways.

Homerton utilises traditional jazz music within the song, and as a massive jazz lover, this made me very happy! Featuring the vocals of JNR Williams and Olivia Dean, the instrumentation takes centre stage here, and it’s a beautifully produced track, working in every single way. The song is absolute perfection and has blown my mind with how gorgeous it is, with the afterthoughts of the track being everlasting long after. That jazz sound continues into Blood On My Nikes, featuring Wesley Joseph, but unlike the preceding track, Carner’s vocals are front and centre, and the track is mastered perfectly. The bars Carner has written are some of the strongest lyrics I’ve heard all year, and it’s fantastic. The track finished with narration coming from young historian, Athian Akec, who discusses the causes and impact of knife crime in the UK in a really thought-provoking speech. A lot of narration on rap albums can feel quite bombastic and fairytale-like, such as Little Simz’s Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, but on hugo, this feels incredibly grounded, to the point where it forces the listener to wake up and face reality, and Blood On My Nikes does this excellently.

Plastic is a great song, it’s more rhythmic and repetitive than other tracks on the album, but yet it works. I can’t stop but bop to it, my head is nodding for each part of the production. It’s one of those songs that has left me speechless, not knowing what to say about it in the best possible way. We have a quieter vibe for A Lasting Place, and it’s gorgeous. The lyricism is incredibly strong, and Carner performs beautifully. The narration midway through has some gorgeous poetry running through it, which was performed wonderfully and was tearjerking – I wish I knew who it was, but they did an amazing job. The theming of the song was great too, everything about it works perfectly. Polyfilla continues the softer-sounding rap sound as presented on A Lasting Place, and has some brilliant bars throughout, accompanied by some brilliant production running through it too. This is a track that works in so many ways, and as for our finale, HGU’s lyricism is just fantastic, which is bought to life through Carner’s sensational performance, which finishes the album on a brilliant note.

Overall, Loyle Carner has done the hat trick – he’s made yet another thought-provoking, brilliantly performed record that tackles complex themes such as racism and knife crime, with doesn’t beat around the bush with those issues, grounding the listener with lyricism that forces them to hear it. It’s a fantastic record and one that could be the album of the year…


Ranking: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


  1. Hate
  2. Ladis Road (Nobody Knows)
  3. Georgetown (feat. John Agard)
  4. Speed of Plight
  5. Homerton (feat. Jnr Williams & Olivia Dean)
  6. Blood on my Nikes (feat. Wesley Joseph and Athian Akec)
  7. Plastic
  8. A Lasting Place
  9. Polyfilla
  10. HGU

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