Writer Sadie Barnett / Photographer 2wothousand3hree
Hailing from Sheffield, Samuel Virgo – known by his artist moniker Svirgo19 – also has plenty of links with Birmingham. His family originally settled in Birmingham when moving from Jamaica to the UK, and Virgo himself moved back to the city to study in 2019.
In more recent years, Virgo performed at Birmingham’s 2021 MADE Festival as a newcomer on the LEVELS stage. And Svirgo19’s new track, ‘On & Off’, came out just last week on 16 September.
Svirgo19’s move around the country is evident in his music, which draws from various UK influences, with traces of trap, lo-fi, hip-hop, and grime evident within his UK rap style. When describing his influences, Virgo talks about a variety of fairly different artists saying:
“My music style is for fans of Tyler the Creator, Kota the Friend, Knucks, Sainté, and Night Lovell.”
We see some of these influences in his earlier tracks, ‘The City of Steel’ and ‘Something in the Water’ being reminiscent of the mellow, jazz-flecked production of American rappers such as Kota the Friend. Whilst his measured vocal style – dark, slow and verging at times on spoken word – is reminiscent of UK rappers such as Knucks or Kojey Radical.
However, his new track ‘On & Off’ seems to mark a tonal shift for Svirgo19. Gone is the mellow production of earlier tracks, replaced by a UK trap style beat with rolling 808s throughout and a simple, echoing melody, reminiscent of church bells ringing through the night.
In short, this track is spooky, with a darker energy than I’ve come to expect from Virgo.
It is not an unwelcome change, but it is a surprising one. And one that I wonder if he has fully committed to, as the unchanging nature of the production here wears slightly thin by the end of the track.
Listening to his vocals, I can tell why Virgo cites Tyler the Creator as an influence. Bleakly distorted vocals and pointed insults coming together to tell what I can only describe as an ‘anti-love story’, with lyrics like “Get off my dick, respectfully” and “Don’t question my actions, you’re just a distraction”.
This single is from his upcoming album The Path to Paradise Begins in Hell, a title that suggests this shift to a darker style from Virgo will be an ongoing one. Where previous tracks showcase a creative contrast between upbeat production and more serious alternative rap vocals, ‘On & Off’ bridges this gap and completes the jump to a darker style of UK rap.
While I feel it is a style that Virgo has yet to fully refine, I am excited to see his experimentation and look forward to listening to his debut album.
‘On & Off’ – Svirgo19
For more from Svirgo19 visit www.linktr.ee/svirgo19