Dylan Cartlidge - Hope Above Adversity
Often, we come across new music we love and can't wait to find out the intriguing mysteries behind the artist; find out what they're really like and meet the person behind the persona. Yet, although we love speaking with Indie-hop Rapper Dylan Cartlidge and it has always been a pleasure writing about his work, their are some questions we just don't need to ask as his appearance and charismatic charm speak for themselves. You only have to take one glance at the picture below to feel the positivity and fun radiate from his recognisably huge Afro and huge personality. His fun attitude jumps right off the screen and indeed right out of the speakers. His personality makes up a huge portion of his musical appeal. He's a guy who wants to spread love, positivity and creativity through his music, hence the title of his debut album 'Hope Above Adversity' released last Friday, so let's dig in!!
The first positive when seeing the track list was how many unreleased tracks there are. It can be very tempting for an artist to fill their debut with their back catalogue that has earned them their current fanbase, yet it is good too see that Dylan has faith in his new refined sound with half the album filled with completely unheard material. These tracks showcase a distinct shift in Dylan's style that has been happening for a while now. We first reviewed him back in 2018 and fell in love with his scrappy vocal flows full of character and unique song structures clearly cooked up in his bedroom by a buzzing mind. Now, we absolutely love this new record but for completely different reasons musically.
This new album has a much crisper and thickly layered sound. The album's opener 'Dare To Dream' demonstrates this from the first second. A thick and punchy Hip-hop beat is quickly met by at least three different vocal sections overlapping to create the sense that Dylan has a whole clan of soul dripped vocalists behind him. By the final uplifting chorus the song is bustling with sonic elements; funky keys, Dylan's trademark bass lines, some strange electronics and eclectic percussive sounds don't battle it out but play in harmony making an appropriately fun, crazy and motivating track to fit its title. The rest of the record continues in this way with the previously released 'Anything Could Happen' coming up next and landing hard as an early album highlight! The track just oozes with pure summertime joy with a big horn section pushing the positive soaring energy even higher, reminiscent of the funky summer anthems that Rizzle Kicks produced.
'Step On' is probably the song most true to Dylan's first releases. It is led by a distinctive and powerful bass line and allows his strange vocal phrasings to play around throughout the verse and leave quite a tense, peculiar taste in the mouth. It is a song that adds a great diversity to the record and lays a clear signal that, although this is a hugely uplifting collection of songs, its not all sunshine and rainbows. Dylan certainly has a darker Funk sound that needs to emerge every now and then and even though his upbeat tracks leave you with festival banger after festival banger, it is moments like this that really make the man standout as a wildly creative and intelligent artist.
'PTSD' has to be the most intriguing of the unheard tracks. It sees Dylan at his most passionate verbally, spitting his most angsty bars to open. Yet the song takes a wild journey, with these early hard hitting vocals fading to make way for the most delicate moment on the album. Just single piano notes allow the softer and more heartfelt side of his singing to shine through. This is all before a huge chorus returns with anthemic chants echoing his words and yet another vocal flow arrives, just as groovy as the first. This track pieces together all the emotions of the record, with his positive spirit, heartfelt recollections of his tough past, his angst, his craziness and his love all pouring out.
“My trauma and adversity in childhood made me feel voiceless and destined for the worst. One day, I decided to use my experiences to create the hope for others that I so much lacked. My first album, ‘Hope Above Adversity’, is my voice. It is an artistic statement of post traumatic growth and overcoming adversity through holding on to hope". - DYLAN CARTLIDGE
'Houdini' comes next with big drums, intricately placed vocals, almost carnival like horn sections and a noticeably dance worthy bass line really capturing the spirit of the album. From start to finish 'Hope Above Diversity' is just packed with crazy textures, always delivered in top gear and the ending to 'Houdini' is perhaps the best example of this. The overall sound of the album is so massive that it feels impossible to sit still to. This production is really impressive considering the stripped back origins he emerged from and it really does have the desired emotional effect. You feel so good listening to every song on the album, whether it's the motivating lyrics and song messages, the joyful sonic landscapes or merely the fact that you know that it is the eccentric peace and love spreader of Dylan Cartlidge behind the mic. This album and indeed Dylan himself are exactly what we all need right now! So, stick this beat bopping debut on and get dancing your anxieties away.