Crop Circle 3

Crop Circle 3

Nines’ fourth album, Crop Circle 2, ended (on “Outro”) with a pledge to “tap out” from the streets. Just a few months later, this follow-up finds him dismissing all plans for a gracious exit. “I was planning [Ice City Boyz album] Supervillains. That was the focus as it’s been an idea for such a long time—in fact, we should be on Vol. 4 of that project by now. It’s just mad how life got in the way: I went to prison, and dropped CC2 when I came home. After that I decided, ‘Fuck everything else, let’s go for the double [album release in 2023], and close the trilogy.’” Arriving less than six months on from its predecessor, the Londoner’s second full-length of 2023 harvests a fresh batch of potent raps. It’s a slick display from a snarly kingpin still deeply staked in a lifestyle that has both threatened and supported his rap rise at different moments. Again faced with the question of how to leave the game behind when it’s all you’ve known, Nines is flanked by ICB partner Skrapz for swinging, supersized trap joints (“Only One,” “Devils Rejects”), hovering over choices weighed up and laid out as far back as 2013 on acclaimed mixtape Gone Till November. In this sense, the harsh and roundabout motion of the streets now sticks as the defining circle of this colorful trilogy. Nines has been delivering effortless, larger-than-life rhymes for more than a decade, defined by his unique form of slick-talk. Unsurprisingly here, references range from Rugrats to Game of Thrones (on “Daily Duppy”), as Nines pulls in everyday pop culture that softens the gritty and dark tints to his story. There’s also room to stir over street politics (“My Turn”), but fun pairings with Bradford natives Bad Boy Chiller Crew (on garage stepper “Toxic”) and Tunde and Mugzz (on “I Do”—a bouncy flip of Snoop Dogg’s 1994 classic “Gin and Juice”) flicker at a dizzying tempo—as does the latest installment of the UK’s hardest posse-cut series, “Line of Fire Pt. 7.” “They want to see me fade but I ain’t done yet/But one day I’ll sail into the sunset,” Nines declares over plucked chords for a redemptive final flourish (on CC3’s “Outro” with R&B riser Debbie), likening his break for freedom to Andy Dufresne’s escape from Shawshank, weaving another motion-picture-worthy saga. “Back when I dropped ‘My Hood’ [in 2012], clearly, I had a lot to learn. At that age, I still loved the hood, but somewhere along this journey I figured out that the hood don’t love you. And my whole perspective changed—that’s why I went from my [2012] debut, From Church Rd. to Hollywood, and ended up on [the grittier and less celebratory] Crabs in a Bucket by 2020.” Here, Nines talks us through the third and final Crop Circle chapter, track by track. “Intro” “I did tap out [on the final track of Crop Circle 2], honestly. I broke the cycle, but this intro explains what was going on. I heard there’s a drought in the weed game right now, so when people call my phone, like, ‘Come on, bro, let’s get back to it,’ I understand they all want Michael Jordan back out there. But that’s it for me, I’ve retired.” “Only One” (feat. Skrapz & OURAA) “This one’s cold. I’ve got my guy Skrapz here, who you should already know. And on the chorus a really sick singer called OURAA, who I met recently through my guy [British producer, songwriter, and DJ] Jacob [Manson], definitely check her out.” “So High” (feat. Max Valentine & ShockTown) “This is serious stoner music, it’s a big part of the brand now. I do everything high, really. I write my albums high, I write my films high. I’ve built an empire from it. I don’t think it’s the weed, though, I know it has more to do with me! If I didn’t smoke maybe I’d be on double the shit I’m doing.” “Toxic” (feat. Bad Boy Chiller Crew) “Out on Church Road [Northwest London], it was like my guys lost their minds when they heard this! It’s maybe the first time they’ve heard me on a garage beat. But why am I not allowed to have fun? I’m not reaching or trying to get a hit here, I just love Bad Boy Chiller Crew. I used to watch their TV show [Bad Boy Chiller Crew] when I was locked up and tell everyone, ‘I love these guys! Watch when I come home, I’ll hook it up.’ Now I’ve kept my word.” “Daily Duppy” (feat. GRM Daily) “My life’s so busy now that I’m managing myself: I do so much that it’s hard to even find the time to write [bars] these days. This is a straight freestyle and I just wanted to go in on this beat [produced by Karlos Got The Juice], so man know I can still punchline up the track.” “Never Be Me” (feat. Blade Brown) “This one has been long overdue, right? I’ve been a fan of Blade’s music for some time. Since back when there was a completely different set of rappers in the game, I could name 10 that were way more buzzing than me then, so it’s a blessing to be on the scene. Unfortunately, so many sick artists of that era didn’t get to reap the benefits how I do.” “Not Guilty” (feat. Tiggs Da Author & Mark Morrison) “Here’s a story from when I was a kid. Imagine this: I’m in the hood and a limousine pulls up, me and my boys are stood there watching—out jumps Mark Morrison. Man, we were so gassed! He was cool, too, and ended up giving us £20 notes each. I’ll never forget that shit, and after all these years, I still think back to it. It’s just crazy to have him on my album in 2023. And we’ve not met again since that day.” “I Do” (feat. Mugzz & Tunde) “Mugzzy is the next one up, man! He’s killed this track—produced by my guy [British producer and songwriter] Show N Prove, who’s always making magic for me.” “Good Morning” “You all know me and how much I love my samples, this [flips One Way’s 1979 single ‘Guess You Didn’t Know’] is a favorite of mine, I can’t lie, but my lawyer doesn’t seem to like them as much. She’s constantly reminding me of expenses, and warned me not to have too many [on this album]. But this has always been more about the art than money to me.” “Max Elliot” (feat. Big Narstie & M Dot R) “The sample on this track [Triston Palma’s 1982 single ‘Joker Smoker’] is one I’ve always wanted to jump on. I met Big Narstie for the first time at an Amsterdam coffee shop, he’s part of the stoner gang so he came to mind for this stoner anthem. It’s the same with M Dot R, he’s my guy and someone I had to get on at least one of these albums, by any means!” “My Turn” “My guy [British producer and engineer] Karlos Got The Juice made this, and probably a good 70 percent of the album. This track’s about growing up and realizing the hood don’t love you, man. That’s why I went from Church Rd. to Hollywood [in 2012] all the way to Crabs in a Bucket [in 2020]!” “Could of Been” “In relationships, sometimes shit just happens. That’s the best way to explain this track, really—things can turn crazy in a second, that’s just how life goes. I don’t usually dwell on that stuff. In fact, this took about 30 minutes to write. But trust, it happens to the best of us.” “Line of Fire Pt. 7” (feat. Streetz, Fatz, Trapstar Toxic & Little Torment) “Everyone’s [back] for part seven, except for Styles, but if there’s another part he’ll be on the next one! I was one of the last Ice City Boyz to even get onto YouTube back then—I was caught up in the trap and this scene didn’t look like it had money in it, to tell you the truth. That’s partly why I wasn’t on the first two versions, but this is a solid series now.” “Devils Rejects” (feat. Skrapz) “I had to get George The Poet to jump on the outro [of this track] and do his thing—Northwest [London] in the building. I’m proud that he’s one of us. In a way I do miss my old hood, but as long as I’ve got my peoples with me where I’m at, I’ll be all right. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it, but it’s time to grow. Plus it makes my mum happy when I’m not there getting caught up.” “Outro” (feat. Debbie) “‘Good Morning’ was my outro to the record for a while, until I heard this vocal from Debbie. I was like, ‘Jeez.’ You know when you just know? I never even thought I would extend past [2018 album] Crop Circle in the first place, it’s crazy how it’s grown into its own brand. It’s been a good ride to the trilogy. It’s now done.”

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