There’s something to be said for taking a step back and figuring out where you are. The world might have been forced to take a collective break over the last four months, but there are already signs that it’s leading to real change. You can see it in the multicultural, multi-class fight for racial equality; statues toppled, historical narratives shredded and racist institutions (at least in the US) defunded.
So when Strizzy Strauss decided in 2019 to take a step back from hip hop and focus on his family, he probably wondered if it was the right decision. Listening to his debut album ‘Trust the Process’, it’s pretty safe to say it was.
The 35-year-old Leicester native has been making ripples beyond the Midlands since he dropped The Art Of Summarising Life back in 2017. Since then, he’s been building momentum, gracing the stage alongside acts like UK veterans Rodney P, Klashnekoff and Skinnyman while networking across the pond with legends like GZA and Pharoahe Monch. Strauss has been putting in work.
Trust the Process is the culmination of that work – both on, and off the stage. Strauss’ offhand flow somehow strikes a balance between brazen confidence and candid vulnerability. There’s an elasticity to his flow – honed through a combination of live shows, daily solo cyphers and a council-funded arts programme.
On ‘Testament’, Strauss bemoans a hip hop culture of “More gimmicks / Less lyrics / More image.” In ‘Speed of Life’, he spits “Them brothers talk like it’s cool throwin’ away your life.”
Despite the digs, Strauss’ words come from a place of cautious idealism. He’s saying We can do better, a truth born of experience. As Strauss himself says, “Been there / Got the bucket hat.” It’s overwhelmingly positive hip hop, but raw enough to sidestep any Kanye-like preaching.
Trust the Process comes with a healthy share of feature artists, including longtime collaborator Ash Styles, Vandal Savage and Leicester lad Siddeeq Matthew. Likewise, the beatmakers are an eclectic mix, including Amsterdam beatsmith Dirty Sweet and local talents Feenikz and Sik Sense. But the diversity pays off. ‘Speed of Life’ wraps a wispy G-funk melody around a thudding beat, while ‘Follow Your Dreams’ pushes inspiration via a sunny West Coast-inspired chorus.
All of this comes together on the aptly titled single Gems (with some golden guest bars courtesy of Astrixx). With its soft jazz piano loop, east coast beat and sinuous flow, it’s already a certified banger.
So, sometimes, a step back is the best thing – especially when it means you come back harder. After years of juggling being a full-time father with the pressures of touring and recording, you can feel Strauss’ world-weary wisdom dripping from every bar. His time might have come, but Strauss acknowledges that nothing comes overnight. No, you’ve got to Trust the Process.
Trust The Process drops July 31st on ie Records.