Basic premise: After killing last year with a succession of club and chart bangers such as 'Options' which reached number seven in the UK charts, 'OT Bop' and 'Trust Issues', East London collective finally drop their first complete body of work 'Roots.' But does it bang?
I have a running joke about NSG. If I ever saw any of them on the street, I wouldn't recognise a single one. No individual member stands out visually or lyrically. To be honest, even their individual flow is not distinct from each other. But I guess that's why their group. There is a real synergy between them even if I couldn't pick them out in a rave.
But it is because of this complete alignment as a group that NSG's sound is so refined and so consistent.
When NSG dropped ‘Options’ in the winter of 2018 and then ‘OT Bop’ in the summer of 2019, I knew we were listening to the UK’s best afrobeat/afroswing group. Like J Hus and Geko, NSG has taken the now mainstream afrobeat sound and infused it with rap lyrics and London sensibilities.
'Roots' showcases NSG in complete control of their made-for-the-club sound while also taking some bold but well-calculated risks which surprisingly work.
Take 'Political badness' for example, the first track on the mixtape. I didn't expect the first track from this mixtape to have such a heavy reggae influence, but NSG makes it work without losing their afrobeat sound.
‘Grandad’, ‘MCM’, ‘Porsche’ and ‘Why Stress’ are clearly the heavy hitters of the album. These tracks are where NSG is entirely within their element and have complete mastery of their sound and their image. These tracks represent the essence of who NSG is. I mentioned earlier that they are a music group meld into one and these tracks really hammer home that point.
NSG could have played it safe, and I would still have loved this mixtape. But they surprise me. Take tracks like 'Lupita' and ‘Jorja’ which brings NSG's sound much closer to the afrobeat sound from Nigerian artists like WizKid. In both of these tracks, NSG praise the love they have for black women. These tracks do not have that undercurrent of the inner-London road lifestyle which is usually within all of their tracks. These tracks feel and sound like a return to the roots of afrobeats, which is apt considering the name of the mixtape.
Chip makes a surprise appearance on 'Nonsense', and while I wouldn't think Chip would be able to rap next to NSG, somehow it works. Again, this just shows that NSG are such a master of their sound that they can bring in a wildcard like Chip and effortlessly mesh him into a specific track.
Final verdict: NSG showcase they are the masters of the London-centric afrobeat sound with 'Roots.' While they stay entirely within their lane for most of this mixtape, they are a few surprising curves which demonstrate the versatility and hidden depth of they have. You may not recognise NSG on the street, but you will recognise their superior sound.