Since his musical career started, Headie One’s output has been commendable. Starting around six years ago, with Headz or Tails, a lesser known breakout tape familiar primarily around his native Tottenham, the Headie’s rise has been prolific. Over the course of a further seven mixtapes, it’s almost as if the North London rapper had a point to prove. UK rap anthem? Check, see Know Better. Song for the girls? Check, see Home. Track with one of the biggest global music stars in the world and he outshines them in every possible way? Check, see Only You Freestyle.
Point being, Headie seems as if he’s on a one-man mission to let us know that he’s capable; capable of branching out, holding his own and consistently hitting the bar he sets for himself.
2019’s Music x Road hinted at cross-over ambition, and Edna is no different. This cross-over however, isn’t necessarily the transatlantic one between the UK and the US, despite the appearances from Drake, Future and singer Kaash Paige. Rather, it’s the cross-over from king-of-drill to king-of-drill-and-whatever-else-he-wants-to-be-king-of. Early tracks Teach Me, Psalm 35 and standout Triple Science are typical Headie One – drill beats with lyrics tackling prison and courtrooms, the harsh realities of growing up on Broadwater Farm estate, dealing with the death of his mother (who the album is named after), and adjusting to new family dynamics. They set the scene for the rest of the album where generally speaking, the theme is introspection. Reflecting on broken social systems, hopeless government initiatives and long jail sentences in later tracks Breathing and Cold (with Kaash Paige), Headie makes it clear that the dilemma of being caught between his new life and his old one, still rings true.
But it’s not all sadness. The running theme of introspection means that Headie is able to explore the positives alongside the negatives, and that’s part of what allows Edna to work so well. Princess Cuts, featuring Nottingham duo Young T and Bugsey has a bouncy vibe. And the beat, flawlessly produced by iO and TSB, is reminiscent of a classic early 2000’s R&B track. Often, the production hides behind other musical elements, and is unable to get it’s deserved accolades, but on Edna, both the variety of selection and the synergy between the beats and the artists on the tracks, is not only testament to Headie’s growth as an artist, but also to the impressive roster of producers featured on the project, including Canada’s Wondagurl (who produced tracks such as Pop Smoke’s Christopher Walking) as well as home-grown talent such as Eyes Adoasi and PB.
Of the twenty tracks on the album, twelve of them have features – an overwhelming observation prior to listening, and it’s easy to pass it off as a commercial move; a move done only to collect streams and appeal to an audience that may not necessary have listened to the likes of Headie. But it becomes clear that Headie strikes the balance when it comes to the features, and many of them are the final seal on the project’s standout songs. Manchester’s Aitch brilliantly goes back and forth with Headie on Parlez-vous Anglais; Mahalia provides a slinky hook for You/Me; Skepta and Headie team up again for Try Me, where Skepta delivers cheeky lines, full of bravado (“coming like Swarmz, yeah my niggas love crashing the rental”); and newcomer Ivorian Doll doesn’t hold back on F U Pay Me. Even with the army of features, Headie still manages to stay in control.
If there was one word to describe Headie One’s Edna, it would be confident. He is no longer afraid to experiment and branch out, and there’s an assuredness in his choices, from production, to the features. It isn’t perfect – there’s a strong case for longer, and more solo Headie tracks on there, and perhaps more of a nod to his previous sound. But the project as a whole, is slick and well put together. It does a great job of continuing to carve out Headie’s place in UK history.