Milton William Cooper is someone known for his theories and the circumstances of his violent death. On ColdLife, one of Cooper’s most prevalent assertions — how an obedient population is maintained — brings listeners into Kyeza and Frost’s exploration into the feeling of fighting inside society’s metaphorically coldest contexts.
ColdLife is set in the segment of British life where days are spent trying to stay above poverty, where confrontation appears more often than warm weather and where dreams are lost in pursuits for basic needs. Kyeza and Frost hold onto this concept with a solid sense of place, so much so that walking through a park underneath a winter sunset while listening to True Dark, Cold or Wax feels like the intended way for the album to be considered.
Besides from Jammz, its contributors are all from Nottingham’s region: Window Kid’s team up is a familiar kind of grimy entry and Snowy’s inclusion is an unexpected hip-hop direction where the frequent collaborators spit hardcore rap. NightFriends is the only track where Kyeza allows another artist to lead; Shxdow masters it with a cool delivery, but Kyeza’s re-entry prevents the song from becoming blurred in a samey flow and brings variety back into focus. This is the collective side effect of ColdLife’s collaborators; the invited artists emphasise the talent of the album’s director.
Having teared sets full of MCs from the early 2010s onwards, the child quoting Milton William Cooper in War Cry, now the still young but heavily experienced MC, Kyeza, has developed an astute ear for what connects with listeners and the best beats he can attack with his vocals. In a genre that thrives on performance, finding this talent in song making is commendable. Like the ‘Action’ that begins and ends the project indicates, Kyeza is behind the camera here, and with notable productions of his own and endless instances of high tier MCing on his CV, the affinity he has with his cast — Frost and the album’s features — is expected.
The album’s greatest appeal is in its choice of sound, which is outside of current climates, and like many of grime’s standout albums and projects, its production pulls from the genre’s wide palette. This is handled by Frost, a stalwart producer responsible for the likes of Heads or Tales, an encapsulation of grime music that draws out the finest in its vocalist, BIGMINI, and plays out as an anthology of events that take place in the realm of severe poverty and struggle ColdLife exists in. Here, and with co-production from Kyeza, this kind of experience and care frames the project, particularly in What’s the Cost?, Have You Ever?, Heart Gets Colder and a guitar-led revisioning of one of Kyeza’s strongest outings — originally produced by Treble Clef — I Got. The album’s slogan is given definition in these tracks: What’s the Cost? samples the genre-defining Sittin’ Here, by Dizzee Rascal, and the two turn the introspective track into a canvas for Kyeza to spray some of the album’s lasting lyrics, ‘Man had to teef — I couldn’t floss.’ ‘I gotta stack or starve.’ ‘I’m hooded up when the sun comes out, I’m hooded up in the pouring rain.’
This balance of reason, need and few choices contain the album — War Cry is peppered with them: ‘From time man I told them it’s one bag of stress. In the ends get your head back stretched — it’s best you move blessed with the steps that you tek. Most the man not right in the head.’ There is no overt attempt to prove credibility — it seeps out of the artist unawares in the kind of observations that can only be offered from having survived the aforementioned circumstances. The mature outlook that’s often gained as a result shows on Heart Gets Colder, with a hook that contains the poignant lyrics, ‘When you step outside and see weapons rise, your heart gets colder. When you gotta let shit slide and step aside, your heart gets colder.’ This is a retrospect of situations that many from places similar to Kyeza will have not only experienced but also know the mental weight of, while Jammz’s verse looks inwards and closes with a resilient finish. It’s a dive into scenarios that make one bitter but over one of the most energetic instrumentals on the album, giving it a layer of optimism that influences the artists delivery and expresses hope underneath the pressure.
Have You Ever?, in a similar mood, features the musings, ‘Search for your purpose, die for your reasons,’ and a verse from Mannimon, one of the best moments on the album, where the elusive MC offers a heartfelt explanation of where his dislike for authority comes from.
Over the course of its 12 tracks, Frost keeps a cold tone without monotony. It slips into drill and eski fusions, such as with True Dark and Wax, and also hip-hop, Been Ard, and drill, NightFriends, to good effect. The album may have stood out even further if Frost and Kyeza delved deeper into the many styles of grime, such as in the final track, Late Nights, the heart of the album. On it, Kyeza wrestles with rationality and necessity. The beat is weightless with icy instruments, and Kyeza’s tone is one that comes from being lost in thought and shows despite every challenge revealed in the album he isn’t without a compass and is a man with a balanced spirit.
ColdLife is an achievement and an album that has come about against all odds. Its recording began in 2020, and it was released triumphantly after a relentless run of quality in 2022, following DreamWORLD, Different, VOID and a standout take on Cammy Riddim.
Underneath the above, there is a second thread of accomplishment, which is Kyeza having the talent and resilience to remain present for the better part of a decade, gain an understanding of music, mature his approach to it and foster the relationships with the people needed to make this album possible. His voice here is thoughtful and refined enough to shows us with skill the feelings and circumstances that plague the most disadvantaged areas across the UK, which are full of stories similar to his that will never surface.