I’m going to go right ahead and say it, after the release of Retrofuturism (2019) it is abundantly clear that KY’ORiON is Birmingham’s most underrated and understated artist. Self-described as “the greatest that ain’t never been heard” – and I have to admit that I agree. He is a raw talent with the potential to seriously readjust the landscape of rap music not just in Birmingham, but across the UK.
When considering rap and Birmingham, similarly to other UK cities, it is the notable grime MC’s that instantly come to mind. The likes of MIST, Jaykae & Lady Leshurr have been spearheading the rap scene in the second city for some years now. However, a shift has been brewing and is starting to reveal itself. There is a new wave of artists that are stretching the constraints of what we know and understand UK rap to be. KY’ORiAN is doing exactly that. He has been slowly simmering a different type of UK rap – and it sounds incredible.
2019 saw KY’ORiON release Retrofuturism, his fourth full-length project, following Goldsoul (2018),Lightwork (2017), and Steppin’ Stones (2015), and it is truly something special. The album perfectly sets the tone by introducing itself as 1147th Biological Appreciation Awards (BAA) winner and proceeds to spend the following 45 minutes beautifully demonstrating exactly why that is the case over some of the freshest beats to come out of the city in some time. On tracks like 1 Take and Gone With the Wind KY’ORiON effortlessly displays his prowess as a wordsmith, subtly educating the masses whilst delivering bars that are riddled with knowledge and punchlines for those savvy enough to catch them. Nothing is by chance. It has been so beautifully crafted and constructed that the deliberation of every word and every syllable can be felt throughout. This is a true hip-hop album.
Retrofuturism is where we witness KY’ORiON seriously establish himself as not only a top-shelf lyricist but also a first-class songwriter – a skill that is often undervalued in this social media era of music. With each song, he gifts a piece of himself. Whether he is talking about his second-to-none work ethic, opening up about hustling, or contemplating whether to take music seriously, it grants the listener the ability to understand the world and life from his perspective.
Despite the official release being just over a year ago, new music videos are still being released in 2020 – the latest being for What You Know. KY’ORiON references Birmingham throughout the album and the visuals reflect that. They provide a view of the city through the eyes of KY’ORiON himself. With muted tones, graffiti-covered walls, and city skylines we see glimpses of a world that is far from perfect, yet full of possibilities for those who know how to navigate it. This may be a grittier depiction of Birmingham than many may be used to, but it is definitely an honest one.
The album as a whole is truly un-skippable. Every song has its place and serves a purpose creating a perfect combination of bangers like Take No Shit and more chilled out jams like Nostalgia. It is the type of project that grows with you allowing for new favourites to be discovered with every listen. Retrofuturism is definitely the epitome of his discography to date and the best place to start to get to know what this artist is about.
The question that now remains is, what’s next? When will we have our next injection of KY’ORiON? Since Retrofuturism he has released a single clean hearted/ hands dirty a collaboration with Brum Town MC’s Dirtz and Malik Md7. But we want more. In the meantime, KY’ORiON’s older works are definitely worth digging through to better get to grips with him as an artist, with highlight tracks New Bitch and HAF KY’ORiON has been quietly cruising in his own lane seemingly operating under the radar. Now is the time to make some noise as we welcome and encourage him to take his place on center stage – definitely one to watch!