Nell: Genre Limits (Review)

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Rap-Royalty member Nell released the “Genre Limits” mixtape a couple months ago during a busy exam period, and perhaps its a good idea I never got around to listening to the tape fully until a few weeks ago because I may have never completed A Levels after hearing the tape. The British rapper from Wolverhampton, a city with no prominent rap scene, looks to prove that we Englishmen are equal to our American cousins when it comes to the Hip Hop game, even if we are not entirely accepted as such just yet. His unique accent is admittedly, to an acquired taste, but once you get used to it there is no doubting the lyrical skill behind Nell. 

The mixtape opens up with the unimaginatively titled “Intro” which allows Nell to unleash a multi-syllabic rhyme scheme laden with a load of lyrical gems, “If you’re whack and wanna know how to improve, stand on a cliff and push yourself” in particular drew a smile across my face. The smile soon faded however upon the realisation of how much Nell’s flow was off for a large part of the track which made the beats low quality more obvious. The mixing could have done with a bit more work spent on it too. 
After the “Intro” a plethora of Rap-Royalty members contribute verses from track two to five and the majority out-rap Nell upon remixes or sampled hooks of already popular songs from the likes of Adele, Chris Brown, Macklemore and Bad Meets Evil. The best verse from the entire first five tracks thankfully comes from Nell himself though on the “Don’t Wake Me Up” remix first verse. It is soon knocked down a place however after track six’s stand out single “Ordinary People“. A song with the potential to become one of my favourite songs, and I think Nell should stick with this slower flow which suits him much better than those showcased in preceding tracks. 

After “Ordinary People”, “Genre Limits” continues to improve throughout following with a remix of Michael Jackson’s “Hold My Hand“; the Phenom assisted “Still Alive” is a slight dip in form which is quickly turned around with a remix of Swolled Members’ “Paranoia” featuring Insamity. Potentially the most gutsy remix from a mixtape laden with remixes of mainstream music is Kanye West’s “New Slaves” re-titled “False Industry“. Although I’m not sure it’s not as good as the original, mainly due to a slightly awkward hook. From a perspective focusing on the verses however, it might be a valid argument that whilst Yeezy thinks his second verse is the best of all time, that Nell came close to out-doing the egocentric rapper. 

Seeing that The Gonz produced the beat, I was looking forward to “Hate Fumes“, up until I heard Nell tried to flow fast again. However, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that he manages to stick to the beat better than evidences in previous records. I’ve heard better beats from The Gonz, but this is one of the better of this mixtape, particularly because it isn’t a remix and so the mixing sounds a lot more crisp and clear. “Dead Silence” isn’t a great track, not entirely awful, just not necessary. There is nothing to the track which screams that it is needed to be listened to. 

Closing Time” is a complete contrast to anything else on “Genre Limits” and that might be why I enjoy it so much. A breath of fresh air and a new sound, style or feature was much needed and equally welcomed by my ear drums. “Bad Lives & Muggings” took it to a complete new level, almost ignoring “Genre Limits” and sounding like an indie-rock record which had broken the mainstream stage. I’m not even sure whether I enjoyed it or not, the verses were pretty good, thematically sounding like Devlin (A personal favourite British rapper of mine) but the chorus let Nell down. One too many times has Nell tried to sing on a single which could have used a feature. I don’t mind one or two tracks on a mixtape, after all, I didn’t buy the project, so that Nell can experiment with new things for his tracks, but there is a point in which it goes too far and “Bad Lives & Muggings” stumbled over the line. 

Definition Of Being Different” sounds like a song I would usually love and label as a stand out, unfortunately the mixtapes penultimate non-bonus track didn’t live up to my lofty expectations. I was very pleased however with “Drowning” which is easily the best song of “Genre Limits”. Absolutely incredible. Nell’s flow, lyrics, rhyme schemes and the beat are all great, the track is even mixed better. The chorus could perhaps be improved, but as it is, is still pretty solid. Take a listen to “Drowning” and tell me had Skylar Grey sang the hook that this track wouldn’t be an instant classic. You’d be lying. 

There are also two bonus tracks, a second version of “False Industry” and a Mistugh Cagle assisted “Faith”. which continue the trend of inconsistency which haunts “Genre Limits”. Overall, I think that is the main problem with the mixtape. Despite the fact I will be adding three of these tracks to my favourite playlist, about half of the track list is laden with songs which I will skip should my shuffle play them. Other problems include the quality of mixing and Nell’s flow, both of which I expect to be improved upon for the Brit’s second mixtape. An over-reliance on remixes doesn’t help his case much either, and in a tape which supposedly bridge the equality gap between the UK and US, Nell is over-shadowed by featured artists way too often. On the plus-side, Nell showcases his lyrical ability which seen him become one of the most respected lyricists on the now defunct my16bars website and why he has found a new home at Rap-Royalty, in which lyrical heavyweights welcome him. Nell will need to step up for the next mixtape and organise his tracklist much better. For a debut mixtape, this is not awful and I have not lost my fandom for Nell because of it, but this disappointment can not be repeated in the future. 

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Stand Out Song(s) – Ordinary People / Drowning

Mixtape Rating – 3.25/5


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[Download “Genre Limits” Here]

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