Review: Rapper Loyle Carner highlights racial injustice in new single Yesterday produced by Madlib

By Joe Staniforth

Rapper Loyle Carner has presented his fans with new music for the first time since his second studio album Not Waving, But Drowning in 2019. This release comes in the form of his newest single Yesterday, which was debuted on Radio 1 with Annie Mac.

Rapper Loyle Carner at the O2 Academy, Liverpool, 2019

This new release stays true to the formula fans expect from a Loyle Carner release: a uniquely tailored beat combined with clever, heartfelt wordplay and lyrics, resulting in yet another Carner classic. The South London rapper wears his heart firmly on his sleeve throughout as he describes the hardships he experienced as a mixed-race child growing up in the UK.

On top of this, this track also gave Carner a chance to work with powerhouse producer Madlib. The American producer has a star-studded CV consisting of rappers such as MF Doom and Freddie Gibbs, with this collaboration being his first with an artist outside of the United States.

This collaboration has resulted in a sound similar to what Loyle Carner has relished throughout his music career, which is a sound that sets him apart from most other UK artists.

Carner paints a picture of the hardships he faced

Whilst the beat itself is impressive, it is really the journal-entry, story-telling style lyrics that bring the theme of this song to life. In a mere two minutes and 49 seconds, Carner paints the picture of the hardships he faced due to his ethnicity, whilst also sharing some fond memories from his childhood along the way. 

At a time when the Black Lives Matter movement is more prevalent than ever and people across the globe are taking a firm stand against racial injustice, songs such as this one are important as they allow for listeners to gain a glimpse into the life of someone who has lived through the struggle they’re trying to prevent.

Serious message combined with positive anecdotal lyrics

What Carner and Madlib do so well with this song is combine the serious, hard-hitting message with other, more positive anecdotal lyrics from Carner’s childhood, and place the whole thing on top of a jazz-style old-school beat. This allows them to maintain the main focus of the song, which is to raise awareness for the identity-crisis which Carner experienced which I’m sure resonates with many listeners, whilst also providing fans with a groovy song that can fit neatly into any playlist.

The ending of the song leaves fans wondering whether this is merely a one-off collaboration or there is potentially a Carner and Madlib project in the works, which would most likely be released next year. Either way, whether it is a one-off or a sign of more things to come, the song is excellent, and I imagine Loyle Carner fans everywhere can’t wait to hear more.

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