“I’m Trim / The emcee most love to swerve”.
2012’s Confidence Boost was the last collaboration Trim released with James Blake. Now, the east London MC is presented for the first time in album format by 1800-Dinosaur.
Over the years, Trim has not been shy of a feud. He’s made full use of grime as a tool to challenge the self-affirmations of contemporaries through intricate wordplay and the utilisation of a host of increasingly left-leaning producers. This record is no different. Seemingly more subdued and self-analytical than his Soul Food mixtapes, the release is a commendable attempt at a grime LP, showing Trim at his most engaging to date.
Trim’s lyrics draw from a pride gathered from rejecting formulae whilst singling out others’ lazy conventions and naivety (“the kids front grime but / I don’t think the scene could hold my weight”). This isn’t a new premise for the artist, though his unorthodoxy has become an increasingly present theme for this record (“Yo they can’t touch this verse I’m still writing / While they’re all stuck for words”). His humorous imagery remains intact too, and at times acts to reaffirm, as well as contrast, the significance of his points (“Fuck walking in my shoes / They couldn’t fit in my socks / They’re all scabs, I’m just picking them off”). Nothing about this feels weary, though. His content is clever as it is cutting and his delivery doesn’t tire, traversing a range of tempos and personas to distinctly articulate himself: (“They said the flow seemed as weird as fuck / And I need to pretend to be something else to get this money”).
Verse that opts for creativity over favour is also echoed in the the album’s production aesthetics. Trim’s side profile is the focal point of the album’s artwork, but the silhouette is made prominent by the green backdrop; with most of the 1800 Dinosaur crew in attendance it’s true that the sum is greater than that of the individual parts. Airhead features most, with three sparse cuts that pay direct attention to space and verse. The opener, ‘Stretch’, reflects this well, with Trim’s delivery chilling in the absence of percussion. Dan Foat brings standout cut ’13th Apostle’, where Trim is worked to push unconventional delivery at 100bpm. The flow of his bravado is buoyed along at a pace outside grime’s usual domain with swung percussion. Elsewhere, James Blake provides a synth-laden and busy arrangement for Trim at his most aggressive with ‘RPG’, and any semblance of rapper – if at all – becomes indiscernible on the scrambled lo-fi of ‘Seeker’.
The album presents Trim in an undiluted format. No other voice is present but the same can’t be said for production. The record marks the first time that 1800-Dinosaur weaves other producers into their fold. Happa swerves the industrial techno inclined output he is known for, alternatively offering a hip-hop tempo and off-kilter synth work. Trim’s flow weaves and ducks to avoid the latter and at points these components seemingly amalgamate, going lengths to prove just how tailored these beats are. Tri Angle affiliate Boothroyd makes the tracklist with two, with the shimmering stabs and over-laden distortion on ‘White Room’ a highlight. DEEK Recordings boss Bullion are also features with ‘Among the Living’, feeling episodic in nature, and following the scant percussive form of those with Airhead credits.
Trim’s endless search for his own road, combined with the non-release of Crises (echoed throughout the record) and the cyclical popularity of grime have helped position him on the periphery of a scene he has a tangled relationship with. This is planned, though. A man whose verse calmly defends his chosen isolation and innovation over leftfield cuts doesn’t want to be in the middle of something he is not. This record is a fitting example of that.
1-800 DINOSAUR Presents Trim is out now on 1-800-Dinosaur. Order it here.
Words: Nick Moore