Let’s give Unknown T the props he deserves. Once again, the East London drill rapper has captured the attention of the entire UK music scene, in releasing his highly touted second L.P., ‘Adolescence’ last week. During a July/August period that has been more than fulfilling for UK rap lovers, with the likes of Skepta and Dave dropping extended projects, the ‘Homerton B’ rapper wasn’t at all phased by such company, rolling out an immaculate PR campaign for the album that included numerous public appearances, spontaneous performances and a distinct venture into the world of fashion, that led to the project achieving a number 8 debut in the official charts.
While the musical content of the project is super impressive, with T, once again, showcasing the versatility of his sound and joining forces with big names such as Potter Payper, M Huncho and Digga D on individual tracks, the emotional connection that T managed to forge between himself and his young fan base throughout the release period was the absolute key in the album’s success.
I remember, a couple of months ago, having first listened to the full project, discussing with T what the roots of ‘Adolescence’ were, and he was very clear on the notion that the album would come to represent his coming of age, hence the name, as well as his ascent from the bottom. T has always been very candid about the adversity that he’s faced in life, having been arrested on suspicion of murder in 2019, so, now acquitted of those charges, he’s driven to show his fans, as well as his doubters, how he has turned his life around for the better. That is exactly what ‘Adolescence’ displays – a high quality, calculated project from the heart, that represents the revitalisation of a career that many once believed wouldn’t outlast the original hype of the debut single ‘Homerton B’.
This exact sentiment of disproving and overcoming was perfectly reflected in T’s increased activity in the lead up to the album’s release, starting with his iconic appearance in Louis Vuitton’s most recent show in June. Forming part of one of the most diverse and esteemed show casts ever assembled, for one of the world’s biggest labels, T was not at all phased by this new venture into the world of fashion, despite being the first U.K. drill artist to appear on the runway in Paris. This appearance was then quickly followed by two magazine cover appearances, for Pause and Viper, the latter of which I was fortunate enough to style, before the rapper then announced that he had an exclusive collaboration with Billionaire Boys Club and Places Plus Faces in the works. The collection, which consisted of two t-shirts and a limited rendition of the Places Plus Faces glasses that have become so closely associated with his public persona, came to represent yet another uncharted step into the fashion industry that many of his fans may not have seen coming.
If you’re a real fan of Ts however, you’ll know that his ties in fashion far pre-exist this project, with his first ever live performance actually coming at his namesake London based streetwear brand Unknown’s party at Ace Hotel in 2018. I was present that evening and it’s safe to say that his come up since then has been nothing short of monumental, as he has become much more greatly established in London fashion circles as well as, of course, the global music scene. His work with Places Plus Faces is evidence of such growth, with founder Ciesay directing and shooting the cover of ‘Adolescence’, while his increasingly recognisable look lead him to become one of the UK’s first drill rappers to strike a sneaker deal, as Adidas picked him up as an exclusive face in 2020.
However, despite the big money contracts and the love coming in from some of both fashion and music’s biggest names, ‘Adolescence’ was all about giving something back to his fans and his people, and it’s safe to say that T hasn’t lost sight of those who support him. In the past couple of weeks he’s hosted numerous meet and greets, run giveaways and most notably, visited supporters at their homes to thank them for pre-ordering the album. There is something so refreshing about such activity, especially after the COVID period, and this speaks volumes to the integrity and authenticity of not only T, but of U.K. rap in general, as we saw Dave running a similar initiative, that being a major Jordan giveaway that shut down Piccadilly Circus last week.
With such a lay off due to the pandemic, as well as T’s natural, understated public persona, the artist’s step back into the spotlight has almost every U.K. rap fan excited. The sheer reaction to his surprise appearance at Corteiz and Bone Soda’s event on Sunday night was something special, and came as an indication that this man is most certainly on the UKs most loved.
The come up has been serious, and to be able to witness and contribute to the success of a young Black creator is a true blessing.
For T, ‘Adolescence’ is just scraping the surface and, with the mark he’s making as a multi-disciplinary entertainer, the strong team behind at Stay Solid Music and a set of U.K. tour dates now locked in for the end of the year, the sky is the limit for Unknown T and his ascent to greatness.