“Listen to me start to speak.” It’s well worth honoring hip-hop newcomer Untold Poet’s request on debut single “Start to Speak.”
Listen: “Start to Speak” – Untold Poet
If you’re an up-and-coming hip-hop artist with a dream of making it big, you’d best be ready to package a maximal amount of your talents as an MC into a relatively small-sized product. Whether it’s Biggie getting a fiery demo tape off to The Source‘s Unsigned Hype column in 1992 or Eminem bringing his A-game as a battle rapper to the 1997 Rap Olympics in Los Angeles, many of the legends of the game have adhered to this strategy and fought with all their might to seize our attention within the limited time slot we can allot to them while they’re still unknowns.
In many critical respects, Untold Poet succeeds in that same approach on his debut single, “Start to Speak.” In the space of just two minutes and 50 seconds, this British rapper demonstrates he has seasoned flow, convincing lyricism, and an eagerness to establish himself within his nation’s hip-hop scene, one which has been going strong in the over 30 years since the emergence of Brit-hop pioneers such as MC Duke and Derek B.
A native of Essex County, just north-east of London, this man has continually absorbed rap music for much of his life. He cites American megastar Drake and fellow British rap gurus Kano and The Streets as some of the artists who inspired his passion for performing. After spending some time as the frontman of a hip-hop collective called the New Subjects, Untold Poet has recently decided to embark on a career as a solo performer.
Untold Poet opens “Start to Speak” by acknowledging the precarious situation he finds himself in now that he is an aspiring rap artist. He informs his listeners– but really just reminds himself– to “think twice before you speak, because your words and influence could plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” Determined to steer clear of the latter course, Untold Poet launches an impressive display of hip-hop lyricism across the course of the track.
Like many debut singles in hip-hop and elsewhere, “Start to Speak” serves as a platform on which the lead artist can crystallize his persona for his newfound audience. In this case, Untold Poet establishes early on that rapping is his pure passion and he will stay committed to it, come what may. “Doesn’t matter if it’s riches or rags, ’cause I’ll be here through the good and bad, and I don’t need to brag,” he declares. He’s in it for the love of the game, no matter how much fame or fortune will come of it– although his preference in that regard is obvious. “I’ll reach how far… how about for the stars?” he asks rhetorically. “Well, they do say a man should exceed his grasp.”
Elsewhere, Untold Poet elaborates on just how deeply hip-hop is ingrained in his D.N.A.– he’s a person with “rhythm and the beat flowing through my arteries.” He also takes us on a vivid tour of the studio sessions he’s worked hard to earn: “headphones on, just the vocals and the instruments and no-one else is listening to the high hat snare bass that’s kicking in.” Such a setting may not quite be terra incognita across rap music, but for an artist putting his first foot forward, his adulation for music-making is definitely conveyed in full. Untold Poet’s rhythmic delivery also impresses throughout the track; this is clearly an MC who has taken the time to hone his craft before stepping into the studio for his first recording session, a trait which hip-hop lovers are sure to appreciate.
The dim piano instrumental on “Start to Speak” complements Untold Poet’s rapping effectively and grants the song an alluring underground feel that corresponds well with where the MC currently stands in this early career phase. Another stroke of minimalism done well is the song’s chorus, which is mainly just an echo of the line “so I can start to speak.” Throwing an easy-going refrain in the midst of some aggressive, fast-paced verses has proven to be an effective structure for past rap songs (see “One Mic” by Nas or “Marshall Mathers” by Eminem, for instance) and it does the trick this time around as well.
The Untold Poet has since released a follow-up single entitled “Pieces,” which is also planned for his upcoming EP, Start to Speak. It’s a contrast from his earlier work in the sense that it’s more country-influenced and also features a cameo by his fellow Essex performer and R&B-pop singer Megan Rose. But the MC’s skills remain as sharp as before as he drops both knowledge (“You can’t get lost on a road that’s straight“) and well-structured rhymes demonstrating his enduring drive to succeed (“Again and again, relent and repent, the hours we spend, the puzzles we figure, the picture’s much bigger, remember my brother, your mind is a trigger.”).
Based on this early output, Untold Poet demonstrates plenty of promise as a budding MC. Now that he has indeed “started to speak,” fans of energetic hip-hop music far and wide would be doing themselves a good deed by listening in.
Listen: “Start to Speak” – Untold Poet
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? © Mia Davies
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