Edinburgh mavericks, Young Fathers formed after meeting at a hip-hop night while all three members were still in their teens. Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole and Graham ‘G’ Hastings went on to release the self-produced Tape 1 and Tape 2, yet it was with their first album proper, the 2014 Mercury Prize-winning Dead that they were bought to the wider public conscience.
Despite the avalanche of critical acclaim that came their way, Young Fathers were far too awkward a proposition for the mainstream. By the release of their third studio album, 2018’s Cocoa Sugar, the band had already entrenched themselves as defiantly abstruse.
Escaping the pigeon-holing straightjacket of easy categorisation, Cocoa Sugar continued along the band’s uniquely esoteric path. Rap? Soul? Pop? Gospel? Indie? Electronica? Listen closely and there are hints of all these and more. The magpie acquisition of styles and sounds blend into an idiosyncratic whole that is beyond simply being unique. Young Fathers are one of those bands that come along every now and again that sound like nothing that’s come before.
The sound of Cocoa Sugar is that of a jukebox randomly throwing out snippets of songs to make an indefinable yet compelling whole. This was considered to be Young Father’s most accessible album to date. The fact it remains boldly Delphic is testament to the sheer artistic ambition of the band. A question always asked of bands whose sound is unique is ‘do they mean to sound like that or is it simply a happy accident?’ It’s a question the band themselves cannot answer. Would they be capable of producing an easily-accessible album if they tried? The truly unfathomable nature of the sound Young Fathers create make this highly unlikely.
The contrasting elements that complete the whole make Young Fathers one of the most distinct bands to emerge from the UK in many years. Where they go from here is impossible to guess as predicting the direction of a collection of mavericks is futility itself. The one thing that we can all be sure of is that whichever tangent they take, it’s sure to be interesting.
Cocoa Sugar manages to capture Young Fathers at their esoteric best. The sheer scope of the members’ collective imaginations is provided with a platform upon which to let loose. The unbridled joy with which they attack the songs shows a band in complete control of their maverick talents.
Embracing their outsider status, the band continue to plough a lone furrow. Make sure to catch them live as they provide one of the most sensational live shows you are likely to encounter. Bands like this don’t come along often; embrace them while they’re here.