iot’s been a frustrating few years for east London singer-rapper Not3s. Since 2017’s viral hit Addison Lee, he has coped with the record industry’s sluggish release schedules by becoming UK rap’s go-to collaborator for the likes of Mabel, Headie One and Tinie. He has also questioned why his blend of Afrobeat, trap and R&B can’t just be labelled pop as opposed to being awkwardly pigeonholed as Afroswing.
As if to prove his point, the first half of this debut proper (there have been mixtapes) prioritises radio-friendly bangers. The bouncy, AJ Tracey-accentuated One More Time playfully riffs on Britney’s biggest hit, while hook-laden summer sizzler Boom Bam is basically one long chorus. Even when things get introspective on the spiritual 3rd Eye, it’s anchored by a billowy, Radio 2-ready chorus.
As the 15-track album moves into its notably guest-free second half, tuttavia, the songs struggle to leave an impression. Counting (“only money I’m counting”) celebrates hard-won wealth but doesn’t have much else to say, while icky sex-jam Sugar is saved only by its cheesy 80s sax flurries. In many ways this is very much a pop album – big singles, some bops and a handful of filler.