November 12, 2017

Test Spin | Col3trane — Tsarina

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Cole Basta, known as Col3trane is a London native already starting to make a name for himself in the English hip hop scene at age 18. He released his first single “New Chain” on May 19 of this year. The vibe of this song set the stage for his entire debut album. It is slower than most rap songs we hear in the states, and has more of an R&B vibe to it. The beats, while very rhythmic, are relaxed and subtle, leaving room for his lyrics to come through. The general feel of “New Chain” is a bit melancholy, as it starts out slow with melodious beats, and is later paired with his laid-back vocals.

His debut album, Tsarina, came out less than six months later, on Nov. 2. New Chain is featured in the mixtape, as are six other songs, an intro, interlude and an outro. His album has one wholesome feel to it, the same feel we get from listening to his first single. With an intro and outro, it is an experience to listen to the album all the way through. By doing so, one can appreciate the continuity he has throughout his songs. Both the intro and the interlude, entitled “Tsarina” and “Marie Antoinette” respectively, start out with a woman speaking in French to a soft underplay of a somber tune. He sings about a powerful woman figure, almost looking up to her. The outro also has the somber beginning, but lacks the French.

Other songs on the album, like “New Chain,” also refrain from hiding the lyrics with busy melodies. “Mario Kart” is about driving around with a girl, not really worrying about anything else. The carefree image these lyrics paint is represented by the relaxed beat they play over. Col3trane’s debut album promotes a sense of tranquility in its listeners. It is the perfect type of music for listening to after a night out, to unwind with your closest friends. Or to listen to when you’re driving late at night, with no other cars on the road.

Col3trane’s most popular song, “Penelope”, has over 500,000 plays on Spotify. He is starting to get his name out there, for good reason. This tune, which you can’t help but sing along to, starts out about a girl that used to be in the narrator’s life, as Col3trane sings “we had a beautiful chemistry.” At first, it seems this song is about a breakup, but with an interesting bridge later on, things change. The beat becomes more aggressive, as do the lyrics, “I can’t trust you, we through.” Then the beat switches a third time and he is back to singing “Penelope come back and check on me. I need you to rescue what’s left of me.” The complicated nature of the lyrics are complemented by the ever-changing melodies he uses in the background. Col3trane pairs his lyrics with beats that represent the meaning and overall vibe of his songs.

Col3trane is an authentic example of what British hip hop has evolved into from its original roots. The genre is continuing to branch off on its own, differentiating more mellow songs like Col3trane’s  from songs that are more energetic like M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes”. It will be interesting to see where British hip hop is in ten years. If Col3trane is any indicator: it is headed in the right direction.


AJ Stella is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].