There is so much that I could say about fast-rising British Hip-Hop artist and producer Cynikal but just know that this kid is one helluva talented individual. His debut EP Toby has been in the making for the most part of this year and knowing Cynikal, probably long before that but now that it is finally here, I can safely say that it has been worth the wait.
Before I delve right into this EP, it would only be right for you to know who Cynikal is and where this London-native is coming from. Breakfast, his last mixtape was one of the most critically acclaimed unsigned projects of 2012 with support and rave reviews coming from the likes of SoulCulture, SBTV and DJSemtex.com with the project’s lead single “Won’t Let You Down” featuring Cynthia Erivo enjoying massive support from platforms such as BBC Radio 1, BET and KISS across UK radio and TV.
Cynikal started 2013 on the back of some buzz-worthy momentum which he ended 2012 with courtesy of “Won’t Let You Down” with the release of what would turn out to be the biggest single of his career at the time, “Take Off”. From spins on BBC Radio 1 and BBC 1Xtra to rave reviews from Stateside tastemakers such as YouHeardThatNew, DJ Booth and KarenCivil to overwhelming support from the likes of SoulCulture, MTV UK, Huffington Post UK and many more, “Take Off” was one of the staple British Hip-Hop records of the first half of 2013.
“Take Off” not only introduced listeners to Cynikal’s new evolving sound and to the Toby EP, it served as a springboard for what an amazing year the British rapper/producer has had. Performances at ILUVLIVE and the renowned Ronnie Scott’s for a record amount of times aside, Cynikal also performed at both the Isle of Wight Festival and Liverpool Soundcity Festival this year while also performing at the legendary Maida Vale for the BBC in the Summer. His latest single “Lost” featuring Jamie Graham continued to introduce listeners to the evolution of Cynikal’s sound as an artist and also caught the attention of the likes of Indie Shuffle, Hunger TV and Earmilk along the way, as it surpassed the previous successes of “Take Off” and “Won’t Let You Down”.
This brings us nicely to the brand new Toby EP which was released on Sunday, December 1. Along with “Take Off” and “Lost”, the EP also features two new records titled “Grey Matter” and “Yesterday”. Made up of only four tracks in total and lasting just over eighteen minutes, the EP is self-produced by Cynikal himself and fully delivers on all fronts. Most notably for any existing fans of Cynikal is the remarkably different sonic bed, upon which all of these songs rest, the presence of heavy guitar arrangements and lush string sections cannot be missed as soon as you press play on the first song “Grey Matter”.
“I’d been searching for a sound which describes me better. Art’s an extension of the creator’s personality, and over the past year I’ve evolved a lot. The EP shows that”. – Cynikal
Lyrically, Cynikal is very much as you’d expect as he lays it all to bare for his listeners with his introspective verses and personal story-telling dexterity. On “Grey Matter”, accompanied by captivating choral-like vocal harmonies, commanding drum patterns and ethereal string arrangements, Cynikal is in braggadocios mode but he does it as personal as ever with a refreshingly honest take on this “I am the best” narrative that is a staple topic in Hip-Hop music. You will have heard many braggadocios records in 2013 but none do it the way Cynikal does on” Grey Matter”. With this track, he predicts that the Toby EP is the game-changer and after listening to this introductory track over and over again, it’s hard to argue with Cynikal. Listen below to “Grey Matter”:
“Yesterday” is the closing track on the Toby EP and it sees Cynikal reminiscing and looking into the future at the same time. It is a hopeful and life-affirming record if I can call it that. Driven beautifully by a glorious string section, “Yesterday” is designed and crafted to pull directly at your heart strings and by God, it doesn’t fail – what a way to close out any record – plus you even get Cynikal rap-singing on the hook accompanied by those choral-like vocal harmonies which we heard on “Grey Matter”. This record carries the age-old sentiment that to go forward, we must not forget where we’ve come from and it carries it well, Cynikal paints this picture in the most apt manner by weaving in stories about flicking through photo albums with his Grandmother, with prophecies of growth and being made for something deeper.
Even though I have mentioned “Lost” and “Take Off” already, it would be a huge injustice if I didn’t specially mention how excellent these two lead singles from the Toby EP are. Starting with the latest one, “Lost” featuring Jamie Graham which could easily win the vote for the best song Cynikal has released to date. Some might say that’s a bold statement but for such an exquisite record, accolades like this is no less than “Lost” deserves and Jamie Graham on the chorus is nothing short of a revelation for 2014. What else can be said about “Take Off” that probably hasn’t already been said, as much as this Toby EP is the “game-changer” for Cynikal as he predicted, “Take Off” opened the door and paved the way for this coming of age that we’re witnessing.
All in all, the Toby EP is the coming-of-age moment for Cynikal that he’d always predicted and has always been destined for. However at only four songs, the EP comes to an end as soon as it begins and ordinarily, maybe that’s not a bad thing; it does leave the listener wanting to hear more of Cynikal and hence, the anticipation for his next project has already begun as soon as you finish listening to the Toby EP. On the other hand, if the aim of the Toby EP is for the listener to get to know Cynikal better, the EP – because of how short it is – still only reveals a small bit about who Cynikal the rapper/producer is. In that case, let’s bring on the album, shall we?
Download: Cynikal – Toby EP
Words by Ayo Adepoju