Album Review: Ultra_eko – On Trial, Part One

In Hip Hop by Joe Ponting

Within minutes of On Trial – Part One‘s opening title track, Ultra_eko asks “did I just talk the talk and never really believe a word of it?”. And by the end of the record, the first half of an ambitious two-part project, it’s clear that it is one big demonstration of him walking the walk too, tackling dark lyrical themes with chest out and head high.

After easing into the album with a relaxing flow on a soulful beat, things quickly get menacing with a string of hard-hitting productions from Subsequel. These elevate Ultra_eko’s laconic vocals and show him as a real master of the craft. The Croydon rapper never loses control, keeping things on a short leash on heavyweight single ‘Venom’ and ramping up the tension through the record’s more grime-influenced moments such as ‘Variant’ and ‘Warfare’.

But there is an intoxicating curveball thrown in the form of recent single ‘Two Point Four’, Ultra_eko delivering sobering lines about the “death of the modern-day family” with a rapid, butter-smooth delivery over an unexpected electro-pop Weeknd-style track. This comes just before arguably the bleakest song on the album, the painfully honest assessment of Ultra_eko’s personal demons ‘Black Dog’ – just like the beast referenced in its chorus, the track is a monster, but one to relate to and cherish rather than run from or confront. And confront them he does, wishing he could “bottle innocence” to save his boys from “the evils that they’re gonna see”. Maybe that is beyond even him, but in crafting On Trial – Part One Ultra_eko has given us a powerful light to shine into our own darkness.

You can watch the video here. Stream the album Via Spotify below or elsewhere here