Merky‘s new album ‘War Is Normal’, is a phenomenal testament to Grime. Jam-packed with bars, from front to back it is a cleverly written and executed guide to modern-day London, and more specifically, to being on road. It’s an extremely well produced, OG Grime sounding project, in terms of its music, and is fully a vibe for real.
The main aim of the project seems to be to send the message, live and direct, that coming from where Merky comes from, means that violence doesn’t faze you, it can and will be used against you, it doesn’t sleep, and it’s always just around the corner; War Is Normal. Merky makes sure throughout the project that we understand he can switch it all up, in a second, still, should he need to, and that no man should ever think he’s gone soft.
With the current climate around the culture and gang violence etc., rather than blaming music and banning it left and right, if anyone is truly concerned they should listen to every word on this album, and find out what it’s like to really live that life, find out that it really is about who you have to become in the face of it, that determines your likelihood of survival. There is no forgetting, and no one has the luxury to stand at ease. Then they might discover that the music is the just the storytelling of the life, and not think that the life is as a result of the music.
Merky is a Grime MC from Lewisham, London. Having formed and left his original crew, Family Tree, Merky is a now primary member of Tizzy Gang, alongside Cadell and Tre Mission. The crew is also often frequented by the likes of MIK and Vic Santoro. Merky uses an alias, Splurt Diablo, for his production name. Having been about for long, still, Merky has released a lot of music, including Blue Battlefield, Catch Up EP, All Or Nothing, Play Your Position, GOAT and Catch Up Vol 2 & 3, he featured on Dizzee’s Dirtee TV 2 Mixtape, Lord of the Mics III, he also released an instrumental EP called J3 and both produced and spat on a large section of Tizzy Gang’s Opps Next Door Vol 1.
Track 1. Intro, Prod. Footsie
The opening track of this project kicks off hard, with Footsie’s production echoing the main message of the album from the off; War Is Normal! The riddim starts with an uneasy sounding melody, built from siren-like synths, a muffled sub base and some sporadic bells, which all leave you feeling like something bad might go down. Four bars in, Merky starts spitting hard, four bars later still, and the baseline gets darker, and fuller, which all adds to the sense of impending doom. There is a simple use of the kick and snares, with lighter still, rolling hi-hats peppered throughout and computer like synth sounds floating over the top. In this way, Merky’s bars become the main focus of the track and are not competing for space, which makes the bars all the more driving. During the course of this intro, Merky informs us that ‘war is normal’ to him, and that any pretenders should watch their step, because he’s really about it, and if you bring it, you’ll get it; ‘spin spin, bun out your skin like magma’, and ‘make man relocate, I’m still in the deep blue sea, like anchor’. Later in the track, we hear his close friend Southside JB on the phone from when he was in jail, where he repeats the refrain ‘war is normal innit’. They both share that in their experience of life, violence is expected, it’s the way of things. The intro really sets the tone of the whole album well.
Track 2. Out Of Order, Prod. Dark Cautious
The second tune, produced by Dark Cautious also has a haunting vibe to it. The melody starts the track with a pitch-bent, slightly off-key synth that has an underwater feel to it, then it kicks in clearer and harder alongside Merky. There is a heavy kick, light snares, and patterned hi-hats but the drums are again quite empty, however, a dark distorted bass provides a fat low end to the track and it almost feels like an off-kilter heartbeat, adding to the overall offbeat, haunting vibe. The production fits the bars perfectly, where Merky spits about doing road, and sorting things out the street way, where no police are involved, where it is dangerous to fuck up if you’re scared, where the law is decided by each man himself, specifically Merky; ‘Out of order like man’s not working, but man’s tryna get more/out of order like man’s not working, got no love for the law/got got got no love for the law, got got no love for the law’. The bars and the whole production on this track feels like a resounding warning; ‘War Is Normal’. Well executed.
Track 3. TDF, Prod. Tre Mission
This track is about Merky, and how he always goes too far, hence the title: TDF ‘Tek Dis Fah'. The production is busy from the off, starting with a police siren synth, bell synths, computer sounds, panning left and right and jam-packed bars from Merky from the jump. Later the track gets busier, still, with snares and hi-hats fully patterned, a vocal synth melody coming in continuously, and then a heavy heavy kick and really low driving bass line. This all combines to create a sense of aggressive confusion, similar to when one loses their temper, which fits the topic of the song perfectly, always going way past the line, when provoked, and continues the theme of the album, ‘war is normal’. Merky spitting the refrain all the way through ‘don’t know why a man take dis far....’ and ending it each time with anecdotal stories, about times he’s lost his temper, and gone way past the line is bound to get man gassed in the rave and is a wheel up bar for sure.
Track 4. Go Back, Prod. Splurt Diablo
Merky produces this one himself. The riddim is about growing up poor and having to do road to make ends meet, but not being able to put it down later as he refuses to ever live that way again. A very full track, it starts with a low distorted bass and a light melody which gets louder and louder until Merky himself starts spitting, where the melody becomes fuller, the drums kick in, and lots of bells pepper the top end of the riddim. Merky shares stories about not being able to turn away from road, because he used to hustling, and he’s used to the big rewards, even though the stakes are so high ‘I don’t wanna go back, I don’t wanna go back/but I just greased man down for a whole stack/now I’m tryna flip that, just bought a whole pack/been on my face flat, I ain’t ever going back’. The riddim has a sense of urgency to it that fits the subject well, and the whole track ties in nicely with the album’s theme, ‘war is normal’.
Track 5. Thirteen, Prod. Missingno & Faze Miyake
This tune is all about fighting, and the production mirrors the theme perfectly. The riddim kicks of with Merky spitting ‘M.E.R to the K.Y, M.E.R. to the K.Y. A.C.E/M.E.R. to the K.Y, M.E.R. to the K. from the deep blue sea/M.E.R to the K.Y, M.E.R. Not from E3/M.E.R. to the K.Y, M.E.R. to the K from SE13/M.A.D.M.A.X, M.A.D.M.A.X, Man get baxed/M.A.D.M.A.X, M.A.D.M.A.X, dressed in black/M.A.D.M.A.X, M.A.D.M.A.X,deep in flats/M.A.D.M.A.X, M.A.D.M.A.X, speaking facts’ and with just a simple melody in the background, we feel as if Merky is having to spell out for man, that if he keeps testing, he’s got to get the info smacked into him, syllable by syllable. Later a dirty bass line kicks and and Merky hits us straight off with the hardest bars; ‘made man dash at Rinse, Made man dash at Radar/If it was back in the day, would’ve jumped off the roof at De Ja’, which is once again spat in a punchy way that is in keeping with the songs topic, and the album title ‘war is normal’. Faze has done a madness on the production, mirroring the hard-hitting bars with the dirty, punchy bass, perfectly.
Track 6. Black Hawk Down, Prod. Quietpuck
This riddim is a stroke of pure genius. Packed with film references to guns all the way through, with multi-syllable patterns spat in the style of gunfire, and threatening overtones, this tune upholds the title and direction of the whole project, flawlessly; War Is Normal. After hearing this one, if you don’t understand them after this track, then you ain’t trying to hear it. The production starts off with an off-key piano melody, a heavy horn and some muted ad-libs (where Merky shouts out Tizzy Gang), then it comes in darker with a low, low bass line and a fuller melody, and Merky spits ‘Man better stop talk now, cah my dog got the ting from black hawk down’ opening the track up with heavy threats of violence and the first film/gun reference. The drum patterns are really light, consisting of a kick and finger snaps only. Merky’s bars are so full, that a fuller drum pattern would only detract, his producers understand him well. The outro to the song is protracted and muted and Merky again makes sure we understand, War Is Normal; ‘Dead, ain’t a joke, all this yammer yammer, chat chat, come see me, you know I’m out, don’t invite me, cause I’ll be there....’. Banger.
Track 7. Crash Bang Sound, Prod. Splurt Diablo, Feat. Mad Max
Merky produced this one, and the whole tune is set up like a plan with conversation asides, which Merky has with Mad Max, about seeking revenge. The production starts with a continuous siren-like, synth melody and a busy, different sounding drum pattern, which weave in and out of Merky’s bars perfectly, where he almost runs through a plan for revenge both in a checklist style, and a back and forth with Mad Max. There are a lot of references to using knives and guns in this plan for revenge ‘ting got kshh, no crash bang sound’ and ‘drill him up, hit him up, crash that that’s a man down’, which is reflective the issues faced in today’s London, and the album’s message, ‘war is normal’.
Track 8. Anger Management, Prod. Faze Miyake
The production on this one starts really soft, with a quiet low bass line and a light water-like melody dancing over the top. A simple kick and snare pattern filters in, with a dirtier bass line and all the while there is a quiet therapy session going on between Merky and his therapist, DJ Argue, where Merky explains that he wouldn’t lose his rag ever, if man didn’t try to draw him out. As the session ends the track comes in clearer and Merky spits in a style that makes it sound like he’s just about to blow, all the way through the track, with bars like ‘looking in the mirror raging/telling myself I’m gonna kill these paigons.....they keep hiding my frustrations/gonna have me camping out on the pavement/lurking l l lurking’. A testament to the title and a very hard tune for your head top.
Track 9. Lewisham, Prod. Carns Hill
This is a tune about reppin ends, the production on this track is slightly different, still. Starting off with a sample of ground control, during a space rocket take off, and an off-key, backwards-sounding melody, Merky comes in with robotic-like filters on his voice which all combines to create an overall sense of threat ‘man ask why ain’t we cool, do will still talk/man gone fine out when I find him’, and spits the entire track like he’s in a row; ‘’Unruly, I don’t respect law, man make order and they get raw’. Bound to create a mosh, for real.
Track 10. What’s The Program? Prod. Splurt Diablo, Feat MIK
Merky is on production again for this one, and the main element is a high pitched, haunting continuous melody, which is later accompanied by a simple heavy kick and light snare pattern, and rolling hi-hats. Throughout the track the music comes in and out, to frame the hardest bars of the track. The riddim is about Merky blowing, and people thinking they can cross the line, being jealous, and that, but Merky makes it clear he ain’t about that shit. He lets man know if he’s gonna switch up, then he’s about to get it straight back ‘please don’t make me come to the place that you stay’. MIK reiterates the kind of jealousy a man receives when he starts to get somewhere in the refrain; ‘What’s the program, what’s the program, that’s my stylee, why you try a clone man?/What’s the program, what’s the program, keep talking my name till I come and smoke man’. A familiar tale to anyone who’s tried to make it out of their ends, and in keeping with the title; War Is Normal.
Track 11. Ruff’s The New Buff, Prod. Splurt Diablo
Merky’s Production on this one is levels. The tune is an absolute riot from the get-go, packed with panning effects, a chaotic mix of heavy low bass, fully patterned kicks and snares, busy hi-hats and a fast-paced, high pitched thumping melody over the top, Merky spits the hook about four bars in, in a couldn’t care less, suck your mum style, with the resounding refrain ‘Ruff’s the new buff, chilling with me hair and it’s looking like a mushroom puff’. During the track we find out Merky doesn’t care what he looks like, he’s after getting P, not chasing gyal, but he still gets gyal anyway, hence the refrain - wheel up bars for sure. They don’t give a fuck attitude fitting nicely with the general overtone of the project.
Track 12. Heart On My Sleeve, Prod. Splurt Diablo
This one is slightly different, still. Merky starts the riddim with a piano melody which pans left to right and almost sounds like rain, lending the track a kind of disappointed feel, like man’s tired of this shit. Shortly after a dark bass line and a heavy kick, snare pattern kicks in alongside Merky’s bars. At different points in the track, the bass line gets really heavy and patterned which adds a sense of urgency to the riddim, and at other points becomes muted and drops out. This works well with the subject of the track; not being able to back down from beef, going far in retaliation, and always being drawn out and having to settle shit, the road way. Merky lets us know how deep this is for him; ‘Should expect less, mum told me I should go get my head checked/but nobody touched a hair on her head yet’. Another testament to the theme; War Is Normal.
Track 13. Up In The Rave, Prod. Tre Mission
The closing track of the album wraps up the theme of the project seamlessly. Even though the riddim is long story track, about going to the rave, Merky kicks off the production with a synth organ-like melody played backwards and rain sounds, next we hear thunder claps, and then a dirty, deep dark bass line comes in, which all has an ominous overtone. Merky comes in at the same time as the bass line, with the refrain ‘up in the rave, big tunes I play/bad man I did a one two, today/nuff peng gyal so we’re due to stay/I’m tryna get waved no war today/but war is normal, I thought I’d say/when we get to the door, we don’t talk or pay/we show the face card, then they show the way’, again reiterating the point that when you do road and rep ends, war is normal. A six-minute long track, we are taken on a trip through a night out in the life of Merky Ace, a testament to his rap skills, he manages to draw focus for the entirety of it.
At the end of the album, having listened properly, any man or gyal should understand that road, and reppin ends, ain’t about no TV type ting, it ain’t something to be claimed if you ain’t really about it, and that in reality, the real road life runs on a far deeper level, and man has to be born to it, to survive it. To Merky Ace, ‘War Is Normal’, and this shit is not for the faint hearted! A cleverly composed, excellently produced tale from the road. Big up Merky Ace!