Aitch Close to Home
Aitch is known for bawdy pop-rap: slick, swaggering bravado over boisterous beats, delivered in an immediately discernible Mancunian accent. On his debut full-length, Close to Home, the 22-year-old rapper draws further inspiration from his surroundings. Reflecting on his rise to fame and relentless hustle, the young artist pays tribute to his Manchester roots and lineage, and how he wants to do his hometown proud. “Ain’t no leaders where I’m from/ I’ve gotta fly the flag,” he confidently states on Belgrave Road, setting the intention for this aptly-titled album.
Aitch pays tribute to his city throughout Close to Home: a Stone Roses sample on the breezy Shaun Ryder-assisted 1989, voice notes from “back home” (including one from a disgruntled woman tired of never seeing the eternally-touring Aitch), and jokey interjections from Aitch’s dad. There are some hefty tracks here, like Bring It Back, with its looping flutes; the fiery Cheque; and even the fun but slightly pastiche reggaeton stomp of The Palm. But they’re too often let down by clichéd lyrics about it being lonely up top or, as on Money Habits, linking baddies and loving money (even if he does counter this on the record’s title track, asking, “but what’s cash without a life?”).
Aitch’s charisma means he can just about pull most bars off, as with the refrain of “arse up, face down” on the sweltering headiness of the WhyJay-produced Fuego. There’s unusual tenderness here, too: syrupy slow jams like 100x offer catharsis among raw, post-heartbreak vulnerability, and Aitch endearingly addresses his younger sister on the Ed Sheeran-featuring My G. Despite the sweet intention, the latter doesn’t land with its earnest, acoustic-pop leanings.
Still, it’s a nod to the more varied places Aitch wants to explore. Close to Home might be a rocky start to his journey, but it’s impossible not to acknowledge his unencumbered ambition.