A Step Above, “Never Been Ordinary Review”

UK Rapper, French The Kid, did his damn thing on his debut album, “Never Been Ordinary”, showcasing his paintbrush flow while staying true to his Essex roots

It’s been almost two years since Kenny Allstar let the world know, “See this one here? It’s different” while introducing French The Kid on Mad About Bars as he set the stage for the French Don of Essex to let loose over the course of a five minute freestyle. It was a fitting introduction for a rapper who grabbed the ear of the UK streets from the day he dropped “Bella Latina” in 2019. Unlike many artists nowadays, French chose to play the long-game when it came to building buzz, leapfrogging up the totem pole of UK rap every time he touched the mic. Classic to his core, French spent the next (almost) three years dropping singles sparingly while ripping his way through the UK radio freestyle circuit. This strategy was shown to be a winner after French’s album shot up to number 21 on the UK Top 40 album chart upon its release, before receding to number 51 in its second week and is currently sitting at number 80. Clocking in at 13 tracks running 38 minutes with only a single feature, Never Been Ordinary is a collection of different vibes, tethered tight to the Essex soil so central to much of the storylines throughout the mixtape. Even though six of those 13 (“Uptown”, “Remedy”, “Neverland”, “Can’t Feel My Face”, “Thrill”, and “Make It Out”) were available for listening before the mixtape was technically released, listening to them in the context of the album gave them new life. The incredibly varied production featured on the album is something that sets French apart. Throughout all of French’s singles and freestyles released leading up to the drop, he was able to cultivate individual vibes on almost every song, a talent which was in full effect across Never Been Ordinary.

One of the standout tracks on Neverland comes as an homage to Eminem’s classic, “Stan” on the deeply personal and complicated relationships artists have with their fans. Entitled “Conversations”, the track opens with French speaking on the importance of his fans to his continued success before detailing a DM exchange between a fan struggling with their own mental health who has put their entirety into getting French’s attention. Although he has never come out and said that Eminem was an explicit influence of his, the unapologetic “I am who I am and I’m comfortable with that” rhetoric that fills his bars (and this track) it is clear that Em’s influence looms large for French. Speaking of influences, French seemed to channel the spirit of D-Block Europe (specifically Young Adz) during the hook for the eighth track on the album “My Mind”. It’s a different variety of smooth than what French usually brings to the table, more straight-forward while still keeping it real and while he sounded a little awkward, overall French pulled it off damn well.

The best track on the album (imo) is also the only track with a collaboration on the mixtape. “Sirens” featuring fellow UK young gun Slimz, or SL, who dropped some absolute gems on the track, proving to have been a great pick for the feature. Seeing as they’re 21 (French) and 20 (Slimz), it the heft behind each bar belies their ages, and combine to provide a glimpse into the mindset of a true young OG. Speaking from the soul, the two spell out the trials and tribulations of life seemingly giving them no option but to to jump off the porch at a young age, learning as they went. Thankfully, for the listeners, French and Slimz both have proven themselves to be astute students and will only continue to drop big facts on track throughout the rest of their respective careers.

Overall, the mixtape is a well-crafted and executed first notch on French The Kid’s belt and serves as a very solid launch pad for what is yet to come. Ideally the next project would contain less pre-release music, which makes sense anyways since he’s past the first full-length drop, and French can continue to develop his artistic storytelling. If he keeps progressing the way he has been, the sky is the absolute limit for French The Kid. It’s currently available on all streaming platforms. Do yourself a favor, take the time to sit down and run it through, and take a step into the world of French The Kid.

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