Trav & Caff unite for Struggle – the latest single from collaborative HekTik Records mixtape
When it comes to HekTik records, I wrongly, subconsciously stereotyped them. Even before HekTik existed, I’d always labelled Paull as a predominantly horror core MC, even though there are plenty alternatives that suggest otherwise in his discography. Maybe it’s largely due to the preceding releases onto the Geordie Hip Hop label’s YouTube having been, for the most part, filled with raw aggression and violent threats.
So when HekTik label mates, Trav & Caff’s new collaboration came crashing into my eardrums, I was surprised, and pleasantly so, with the emotionally resonant Struggle.
Prior to the promotion building up to Struggle, I’d never really heard much from Trav. My respect for Caff has been documented in past reviews, but for one reason or another, Trav had managed to slip through the cracks despite my love for the three other HekTik MCs; the aforementioned Caff, Paull and RG. Looking back through a few of Trav’s records, he’s the most reserved member of the collective, while the other three are often aggressive and command attention with their delivery and shock-rap lyricism – Trav takes a slower approach to his rapping, allowing for his wordplay and rhyming patterns to take centre stage, and, when combined with the commanding cadence of Caff, the chemistry is magical.
The two rappers take one solo verse each, before a third verse going back-and-forth, bar-for-bar; and that’s when the incredible chemistry is on show. The two take somewhat different approaches lyrically in their respective solo contributions.
True to form, Trav brings his laid-back delivery as a platform for a universally relatable verse, despite references to Tyneside. It’s a verse that could have been written by anybody, and, while there are criticisms for that, it only holds testament to the terrific talent Trav possesses to construct words that are clearly personal to him, but also resonate with listeners of any background, so long as they’ve struggled.
Caff however, comes in with specifics, making for a more detailed, and personal verse that will hold a connection to people who have gone through similar experiences. The line “As a kid I seen my da hit my ma with objects that were blunt” and it’s expletive topped follow up is as hard hitting as any other lyric I’ve heard in a very long time. It’s not something I personally connect to, but those that do will certainly hold this track dear to their heart.Meaning the lyrics connect with a range of people, Trav’s will connect with a broad range of people, and Caff’s will connect strongly with a few – and it’s unclear as to which can be considered better.
With a strong chorus that balances out the emotional resonance with just the right amount of motivation, and a video shot by cousins Steven (who founded HekTik) and Tony, under their combined Potter Visuals moniker, that encapsulates the energy of Struggle and the relationship between the respective HekTik MCs, Struggle is easily my favourite release of 2015. When I say it’s my favourite, I don’t mean restricted by geography or genre, the record is my absolute favourite track, transcending both the North East and Hip Hop boxes it’ll be placed within. It remains to be seen whether it’ll remain as such throughout the year, but considering the quality, it’ll take something special to top Struggle.
With Chaotic Beginnings, a collaborative mixtape from all four HekTik Records artists is expected on March 31, Struggle has not only set the standard I expect from the project, but it’s also upped my excitement for the release and barring Kanye’s album, it’s the release I’m most looking forward to this year.