Bugzy Malone: B Inspired review – life lessons from a northern grime lord

This is only his debut full-length, but Bugzy Malone’s life is already worthy of a three-act biopic. A charmed early childhood was ripped apart by an abusive stepfather and subsequent divorce and poverty, leading to prison as a teenager, followed by an embrace of grime with a proud Mancunian accent that sent him into the upper reaches of the charts. From the title of B Inspired downward, Malone casts himself as a kitchen-sink life coach, saying at the outset “please believe me, you can beat depression”, something he has conquered on every level, from psychological to economic. Considering how far he has come, his assertion that you can “live on the street and make it a castle” on sweeping garage ballad Ordinary People is genuinely inspirational, as is its tale of finding a northern identity where “there was Stone Roses and Oasis, but when they were big we were still babies”.

He’s at his best when telling piquant details of his struggle: “I had money buried on a golf course back then, and it never got spent” is a film noir in a couplet, the domestic abuse is spoken about plainly, and passing references to trainers and video games keep everything rooted in reality. Die By the Gun is a Kendrick-style bit of storytelling about a hit job gone wrong, driven by a serpentine flute, while Separation is a simple and affecting tale of losing a friend to a jail sentence, complete with refreshingly workaday descriptions of the drug trade.

But Malone’s wordplay is sometimes lacking. He opts for simple rhyme schemes and some schoolboy similes – “The calipers are red like Elmo,” he says on Submarine, one of two lustful odes to his motor vehicles. Guest spots are unsurprising, for better and worse – Not3s is typically keening, but Rag’n’Bone Man is as generically soulful as a gospel choir on a banking advert, and other choruses, such as on Death Do Us Part, are wretchedly underworked. The production is ambitiously varied too – delicately tiptoeing Afrobeats on Heart segue into Come Through, a horn-laced grime banger by Swifta Beater – but overall there is a conservatism and prefab palette that prevents this from being a British street classic.

By: Ben Beaumont-Thomas


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