Review: Clavish, ‘Rap Game Awful’

North London’s hottest prospect offers glimmers of potential on his debut mixtape, sprouting casually on the search for his unique selling point.

The anticipation for Clavish’s arrival has been bubbling since 2018. Freestyles and singles put the 23-year-old in pole position to break through the ceiling, slotting like a jigsaw piece in the lane of trap street tales that the nation’s core listeners adore. Nearly five years on, the rapper’s full-length debut arrives with the same anticipation expressed on his emergence.

Rap Game Awful aims to make up for that lost time, filled to the brim with tasteful production and a premature star still developing his rap skills.

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Clavish has a template for plainly communicating his bars. He offers pensive thoughts over dark, foreboding trap production; the selling point for what Rap Game Awful offers. Minimalism sets the tone on tracks like “Honest”, “NRF Freestyle” and the chilling “Rap Game Intro”, which is executed well over the course of the project. It’s beats like these that, ideally, provide plenty room for flows extravaganza—a trap rapper’s dream who may not be fixated on complex lyrics but compensates by laying gripping confessions of street trauma. While Clavish isn’t quite convincing with his tales yet, he does have the right template in position to achieve it.

At a 90-minute runtime, Rap Game Awful is a marathon being walked. Just like popular contemporaries (Nines, Giggs), Clavish’s delivery is tightly deadpan, reserved in all departments to create this nonchalant attitude. His slow strides rarely turn into a light jog, overindulging in a spaced flow void of any concern for cadence. Aside from a few slick lines (“Take away my tats, I still got a lot on my chest”), this isn’t compensated with compelling rapping, songwriting or memorable hooks (“We step in the dance and go to the restroom / Just know we ain’t tryna go wee-wee”, he says shamelessly on “Greece”). Posse cut “4 of Us” delivers the mixtape’s strongest moment, but Clavish adds little to the track by the time Youngs Teflon, Rimzee and Tiny Boost have impressed with their veteran experience. 

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If trimmed, Rap Game Awful has a passable effort within it, largely when the rapper catches a cadence. However, Clavish is still searching for what’ll make listeners come back to him. His story is still to be told, which will naturally grow his presence on the mic. 

6 / 10

Best tracks: “4 of Us”, “NRF Freestyle”, “Public Figure”, “Rocket Science”