As with every drop from South London's Sneakbo, anticipation for his second studio album 9 Lives was sky-high. The project was teased for months on his socials via mysterious posts and images, which could have easily backfired, but the general consensus is that it has more than lived up to the hype and makes a worthy addition to his growing back catalogue.
9 Lives isn't just a cool title, either: according to an oft-repeated urban legend, the rapper was rumoured to have escaped a potentially life-threatening situation by escaping into a Brixton McDonald's bathroom and turning into a black cat. Sneakbo has yet to deny the rumours and supposedly named the album as a tongue-in-cheek reference. Whether or not it's true hardly matters, because it just adds to the mystique and legendary status of the Brixton rhymer.
Folklore aside, 9 Lives and the songs within do suggest an impressive adaptability. Throughout all his releases, Sneakbo has moved and shifted with the times, taking influence from the changing musical atmosphere and stirring it into his rugged UK rap sound. Here, for example, he touches on drill ("I Used To"), Afrobeats ("Hold You Down" and "Pree Me"), and homegrown R&B ("Never Gonna Be") and stirs them into the already eclectic melting pot of road rap, pain, classic hip-hop and more. And yet, it's all balanced out and tied neatly together with his bold lyrical style.
Complex caught up with Sneakbo to break down every track on 9 Lives, explaining more about some of the themes and how they play into each track.
"Highs & Lows"
"'Highs & Lows' is quite personal to me; it starts off with the voice of my son, Lorenzo. I became a father last year and it's one of the best feelings. Everything I do is for him and his future, so it was important to me to have him part of my second album. The track basically outlines some of the good and bad things that have happened in the last two years of my life. It's like a follow on to things that went on after my Brixton album."
"I Used To" f/ Stickz
"This one talks about things that I used to do. I wanted to go in with a harder sound so my producer, Lekaa Beats, took it down a more drill vibe. I knew I wanted to get a feature on it so hit up Stickz, who's also from Brixton. We recorded the song together at a studio in Brixton; about ten of us in there just drinking, smoking and vibing. It got us hyped!"
"The Flyest" f/ Br3nya
"This track is all about good vibes and I wanted to have something I felt would sound good in the summer when the suns out. I've known Br3nya for a while and knew straight away that I needed to get her on it. Her sound's quite a distinctive sound, and I really liked her own stuff, so I knew we would connect well on a track. N2theA produced it, and he's someone I worked with before on a track called 'I Like It'. As soon as I heard the beat, I knew it was the right one."
"Hold You Down" f/ Mr. Eazi
"'Hold You Down' is about being in a relationship. It talks about being there for your partner, no matter the situation, showing them security and love. As a man, they should be able to count on you. I previously worked with Mr. Eazi on his Life Is Eazi: Vol 2 project on a tune called 'Chicken Curry', which made it easier to finish this song because we both know how each other works and the vibe we wanted for the record."
"Since School Days" f/ Ard Adz, Tiny Boost
"Everyone I know has mad stories and memories of school days, both good and bad, which shaped how they progressed afterwards. 'Since School Days' is my take on how life was back then: I was very confident, calculated, and a bit of a hot head. I knew I was gonna make it in whatever I did. I've known Ard Adz and Tiny Boost since school days, so it made sense that this was the track from the album I put them on. We could all identify with growing up in the same environment, having similar experiences."
"This record is a personal one to me. I let off a lot of emotions when I wrote this song. I had quite a lot of anger built up inside when recording it, so my flow comes across quite hard and my words are super direct. The reversed lyrics at the beginning reflects the darkness of the tune, the sins that I want forgiveness for. The song is like a battle: I say at one stage I asked God for forgiveness, but then I also say I don't want no one's advice and I do what I want."
"She Fell In Love" f/ Still Greedy
"'She Fell In Love' was the last song that I wrote for the album and just about managed to get it in on time. It's about flexing with the gyaldem and mandem. Rude Kid produced this one, and it's actually the first time we worked together. I've always liked his work, so I wanted to make sure it got put on the album. We made three or four songs and two of them made the album, the other being 'Never Gonna Be'."
"Do What I Want" f/ MK
"This song sums up the idea in my head of Jetski Wave. When I first heard the beat, all that came to mind was summertime: being on the beach, BBQ, jetski's, girls in bikinis [laughs]. Just pure summer vibes! MK is my friend from Brixton that I grew up with. The first song we ever had together was a remix of '1000 Miles' with Political Peak around 2010, so I thought it was time we did something again."
"Oh La La f/ Dappy"
"I released 'Oh La La' last December and knew from when I made it last year that I wanted it to go on my album. It features Dappy, and we talk about a girl being in love with the lifestyle and not being be loyal to her current boyfriend. It's the typical scenario you sometimes see when a girl will drop out whatever's going on in her life for a man. I've known Dappy for years as well; we've made loads of songs in the past, but we never got to finish them off until 'Oh La La' came about. It was just organic."
"Never Gonna Be"
"Yeah, so 'Never Gonna Be' was produced by Rude Kid, and I was thinking about my recent trip to Ibiza when I wrote the song. Anyone who follows me knows I like to have a good time, especially when I'm on holiday or going abroad for shows. It's got a relaxed, kick-back summer vibe and I'm just coming with different flows. This life is 'never gonna be' forever so we have to make the most of it."
"Pree Me" f/ Moelogo
"I first worked with Moelogo a few years ago; we've done quite a few records together, and he features on my album, Brixton. 'Pree Me' is about girls looking at everything I do and wanting to have a taste of the lifestyle. We recorded this together in a studio in East London, and the video is mad colourful and features this epic house that I think sums up the notion of 'preeing'. It's as much about jealousy as it is about having fun."
"Last Night In Brixton"
"This song is a reflection of things that happened in Brixton. I called it 'Last Night In Brixton' because it looks back on where I used to be and how I'm not really on the block anymore. At the start of this track, I'm talking directly to a couple of my close friends from Brixton; they know who they are and will instantly understand what I mean by my words. It's quite personal. At the end of of it I mention, we're living life tonight, there's no sirens."
"Love Is A Gamble" f/ Kida Kudz
"'Love Is A Gamble' is a personal song about the mother of my child. It talks about riding for your partner, no matter what, and being there for the long-run. It's important to let people know when you genuinely care about them and also important to take care of your family. I'm a big fan of Kida Kudz, and his vocals worked perfectly on the record. We're both fathers and in relationships, so we could equally relate with this song."
"Skrrrr" f/ Fekky
"Like myself, Fekky is from South London. He's been in the game a long time and grew up on the streets like I did. This is a straight-up rap song and I wanted to create something that could ring off in the streets. Stevie B Beats produced it, someone I met on Instagram. He's got some fire instrumentals! He also produced 'Advice'."
"They Already Know"
"This is just a reminder to everyone that I'm still here—I've got '9 Lives'! I've been through a lot of things in my life and always find ways to bounce back from situations, or even on a musical level: bouncing from genre to genre. For everyone that thought Sneakbo was dead—I'm still here, my G."
"As the name suggests, 'Paris' was recorded in Paris, France, and talks about making my family happy. I talk about my mum and my gran, who I'm very close with. I was sent to live in Nigeria with my gran when I was about 16, and that experience changed my life and made me appreciate my life more in the UK. This song reflects on that and my life in general."
"The 'Outro' concluded my intro, 'Highs & Lows'. I'm summarising my whole life and concluding all the topics I spoke about on the album—family, friends, and God. I knew when I was making it that it would be the last track on the album so decided to just call it 'Outro'. Sneakbo's story is still being written."