It takes lots of ‘cajones’ to be a nonconformist. Going against the grain is one of the biggest risks that any musician can take. Trends often drive sales, with artists joining the bandwagon because they don’t want to be left behind. That said, nonconformist musicians are often the ones that keep music the most interesting. Sometimes nonconformity pays dividends, while other times it creates quite a pain in the derriere. For Canadian rapper Tre Mission, being a grime artist where geographically grime isn’t the dominant style makes him an outsider. On his debut album Stigmata, being different from the rest of pack isn’t bad in the least.
“Stigmata”, featuring Thes, proceeds to show off Mission’s agile flow. In addition to the spry flow, Mission is able to tell a compelling narrative. Accentuated even more by unique production work – particularly the drum programming – “Stigmata” is a compelling opening musical statement. “Real Grind” follows featuring rapper Wiley and singer Andreena Mill. Mill lends her smooth pipes to the catchy hook, while Mission and Wiley handle the grittier verses. If there is nitpick about “Real Grind” it is that Mission doesn’t feel like the featured artist. On the other hand, the vitality musically of both Wiley and Andreena speaks to Mission’s artistic selflessness.
On “Jessica”, the assist comes from a bigger name: K-os. On autopilot spitting over malicious-sounding production, Mission compels by all means. “Rally” featuring JME is highly representative of the UK grime scene. The production could be described as manic, but in the best possible way. Featuring strings and dubstep elements, the ear candy is awe-inspiring. Brief at just two minutes, “Rally” packs a mean punch despite brevity.
“On Road” doesn’t feature quite the same level of ambitious production as “Rally,” but continues to rep the grime scene, exemplified by its electro hyper rhythmic beat. “In The Hallway” sounds more similar to hardcore rap from the United States. “I be with some trappin’ ass n***as … they just tryin’ to get this money all day / choppers in the hallway.” Skepta guests on the aggressive number, delivering the priceless line, “I don’t wanna see Miley twerkin’” Amen!
“Money Make (Her)” featuring Andreena contrasts the ‘grimier’ sounds that dominate Stigmata. The use of piano and acoustic guitars is a stark difference from the edgier synths of, say, “Rally.” The theme is still harsh you might say, as the title is a play on words. Andreena sings, “Money make her go wild”, which suggests that the woman will do anything to get money. “Money maker” itself refers to ‘dancing’ – shaking your butt.
“Jack Pot” returns Mission to grime, assisted by Merky Ace. Predictably, the rhymes are incredibly agile. Merky Ace’s contributions sport a heavy British accent alongside quick-paced rhymes, making the lyrics a bit difficult to decipher. Still, the skills are undeniable from both MCs.
Speaking of skill, Tre Mission continues to shows off his impeccably on “Get Doe”, featuring Saukrates. Here, Mission embraces being the ‘exception to the rule’ as a ‘Grime kid’, despite geographic location (verse three). Another fascinating moment of “Get Doe” is how Mission’s masterful abilities as a wordsmith turns references to anti-hemophilia into “bleeding on the music” – aka putting heart, soul, and incredible focus to be successful.
“Boy in the Corner” definitely allures from the onset. Once more favoring a southern, hardcore rap sensibility contrasting the electro cues of grime, Mission sounds as confident and effective as ever. Having a catchy hook doesn’t hurt either. On penultimate cut “Milly”, once more griminess returns with bold synths, pronounced drums, and grimy rhymes. “Cold Summer (Outro)” balances the album, closing as the album opened (intro and outro).
Throughout Stigmata, Mission’s chameleonic abilities shine through for the best. Lyrically, Mission can go deep (“Get Doe”) as well as ‘dumb it down’ (the hook of “Boy in the Corner”). Versatility plays a gargantuan part of his MO as an MC, and being so malleable artistically is a pro. Stigmata may not be perfect – at times for listeners uneducated on the ‘grime’ scene might consider it at times hard to digest – but ultimately, it’s a sound, great statement from a newbie establishing his artistry.