> Album Review: For Who to Say by Oyakhire  - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Album Review: For Who to Say by Oyakhire 

Edinburgh rapper Mark Johnson, otherwise known as Oyakhire, is an established name in Scotland’s hip hop scene, appearing on tracks with award-winning artists like Bemz and NOVA. In pursuit of the next step in his career, a recent move to London makes its way onto his latest record, For Who to Say, a musical time capsule of an emotional low point, made of jazzinfluenced instrumentals paired with Johnson’s confessional bars.

Opening track ‘Moonlight’ digs deeper into this depressive episode, its outro giving a fuzzy voice to Johnson’s critical internal monologue. Most similar in production style to second single ‘Crabs in a Barrel’, ‘Bite the Dust’ has a nostalgia-tinged instrumental held down by a looping crackly vinyl sample and numerous lyrical references to 90s hip hop icons (‘got that 90s chill, plus a flow that’s as tight as a Cypress Hill, I mean I’m the type to build the miseducated I’m heavily dedicated’).


Oyakhire – Bad & Good (Official Video)

Dreamy jazz keyboard opens lead single ‘Bad & Good’, a track which sees Oyakhire regain some bravado, while ‘2AM in London’ speaks to the slog of hustle culture against the narrative backdrop of the Big Smoke. Closing things up is ‘Fortune Teller’, featuring a verse by London rapper Jesse James Solomon. Solomon’s lilting legato style creates a nice counterbalance to Oyakhire’s deeper tone and the sampled string arrangements lift the instrumental to a fitting climax.

Mining inspiration from a dark place, For Who to Say is emotionally poignant, but sonically it doesn’t quite reach the depths we heard in 2022’s Feet on the Ground. Citing J. Cole and Loyle Carner as inspirations, Oyakhire seems to be reaching for the narrative style of these established voices. On more than a few occasions, he succeeds.


For Who to Say is out now

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