Release Date: Apr 2, 2012
Record label: Syco Music
Genre(s): R&B, Dubstep
There was no need for Labrinth to make a solo album. As the man behind Tinie Tempah’s electro-grime swagger, Timothy McKenzie could well have dined out on ‘Pass Out’ and ‘Frisky’ until Kiss FM finally got bored of sending him obscene PRS cheques. He could have sat on his contract with Simon Cowell’s Syco label, producing hits for a succession of talent show finalists desperate to lace their near-certain #1 with some urban credibility.
The debut album by Timothy "Labrinth" McKenzie arrives at an intriguing time for the pop-rap phenomenon he helped create. While the artists Labrinth has worked with as a producer and songwriter – Tinie Tempah, Wretch 32 and Professor Green – have brightened the landcape of pop considerably, there's the creeping sense that the genre they spearheaded might have come to a critical mass. There are singles that are patently making the charts because they cravenly cleave to a popular template, not because they have any actual merit of their own.
As the man behind the boards for Tinie Tempah’s ‘Pass Out’, Labrinth has proved he can make an urban pop banger. However, the path from producer to solo star is never an easy one. Labrinth hasn’t lost his eye for a beat: opener ‘Climb On Board’ is underpinned by ferocious cut-up drums and strafing synth lines, while ‘Earthquake’ plots the exact point between head-nodding hip-hop, Daft Punk and trance.
"Hey Simon, we're fucking 'em up/ Sending 'em Syco," raps Labrinth on his recent single "Earthquake", marking an unlikely intersection between grime music and Simon Cowell. It may seem odd that the young east Londoner who produced Tinie Tempah's "Pass Out" is releasing his debut album on Cowell's Syco label, but this is an unabashed pop project with a wide brief, no more allied to grime than gospel, funk or soft rock. Singing, producing and performing his own material, Labrinth has high ambitions but falls disappointingly short, and there's nothing here to top "Earthquake".
A polished debut that’ll leave his fans wanting more. Al Fox 2012 Timothy McKenzie, AKA Labrinth, has already established himself as an in-demand, trend-surfing producer, aiding the ascension of many an artist including Tinie Tempah and Wretch 32, as well as on upcoming projects from Usher and Cheryl Cole. With perhaps the exception of Yasmin’s unspeakably beige Finish Line, Labrinth is clearly a man who understands the craft of the mixing desk.