REVIEW: Dreams of Paradise - Carasel

#AfterDark showcases the best underground artists in Bristol from the up and coming to the legendary. First up is Carasel, long known as an MC on the drum & bass scene but who recently released hip hop project ‘Dreams of Paradise’. Our very own Cem Topuz took a listen and gave his thoughts on the new album from this legendary Bristol MC.

Author: Cem Topuz @CCTopuz

 Credit: Wordlife / AFT Records

Bristol’s multi-genre lyricist, Carasel dropped ‘Dreams of Paradise’ earlier this month and it got all the Hip-Hop heads at ‘Freestyle Bristol’ talking. 

Sitting at just under 50 minutes, this 13 track album is littered with intricate rhyme schemes; not only from Carasel, but from his fellow AFT (Ambush Family Tree) collective and other powerhouse UK rappers such as Sonnyjim and Rodney P.

The hard hitting boom-bap beats are definitely not to be slept on either, and feature producers such as Jam Thieves and Harry Shotta who cross into genres that they’re not normally known for. 

Carasel doesn’t take his foot off the accelerator when it comes to delivering his bars.

 Credit: Wordlife / AFT Records

Whether it be difficult, reminiscent tracks about his love life (‘Somehow’), or an opportunity to drop braggadocious lines about his lyrical ability (‘Jack of All Trades’), he comfortably raps about his moods, his highs and his lows. It’s hot, yet cold at the same time. 

His lyrics are friendly, positive and inviting. However, that does not mean he’s afraid to switch it up as he pleases, proving why he’s such a dominant force in the Bristol scene.

The album is introduced with ‘Bittersweet Sunset’, coming in with ringing, discordant piano keys.

The track discusses what’s been going on in his life: the birth of his son and the effect the Coronavirus pandemic has had on himself. For every piece of success he’s had, there was bittersweetness behind it.

Like most musicians that come out of Bristol, it’s almost impossible to not nod in the direction of the city’s huge creative culture. ‘Born & Bred’, is the cut that sends most love to the city, where he talks about the love and the hate that comes with breaking into the Bristol scene. 

The line, “You don’t have to grow up round here to love round here”, was particularly heartwarming, as I know many, many individuals (myself included), have come to Bristol and have instantly fallen in love with what it has to offer to its citizens. 

This love also continues with the track ‘Zoning’, where he reminds us “In Bristol where I’m posted”, on the chorus.

 Credit: Wordlife / AFT Records

‘Flashback’, pays homage to his inspirations, saluting those that paved the way for most rappers in today’s scene. Referring to U.S greats such as ‘Big L’, ‘Wu-Tang Clan’ and ‘Funk Flex’. 

Reminiscing about his younger days, he talks about the feeling this music would give him, “Makes me grab the landline and call my boy, it’s amazing!”

The posse cut ‘Law of Attraction’, is a personal favourite of mine; with tightly knit drums and the call & response dragging strings, this track is an instant head bopper.

Possibly the slowest track on the album, the delivery of the four successive verses creates a close, warm atmosphere, which I truly believe was the aim of the track: “It’s the Law of Attraction, good vibes we create.”

One of the more load bearing tracks of the album, ‘Burn’, comes in heavy. There’s no room to breathe here. An instant neck cracker. With snappy snares, and stomach kicking kicks, it’s difficult to not vibe on this one, featuring the seasoned U.K great, Rodney P.

As the album begins reaching its curtain call, we’re introduced to the penultimate track, ‘Time Sweep’. This motivational piece constantly reminds us to “stop clock watching” and “do something”. Carasel compares himself to other rappers and  reminds us why he’s more successful than others; how they’re outdated like “game cartridges’.

 Credit: Wordlife / AFT Records

The moment the closing track, ‘Dreams of Paradise’ is introduced, you know it’s time to say goodbye. 

Much like the introduction, the track starts off with piano keys. The difference is, here, they’re far more melancholic. There’s a deep sadness rooted within these chords. When the drums are introduced, partnered with the claps for snares, my mind only draws to Dr. Dre’s, ‘2001’ closing track, ‘The Message’.

Carasel’s first verse talks about how far he’s come in his career, with his never ending passion and support from his peers. The second verse discusses the hurdles that have risen on his journey, but reminds us how it’s important to keep persevering: “You’ve got to climb the mountain ’til you’re ready to peak.”

The final verse, delivered by rapper, DRS, touches on the Concrete and Rose parable. Simply explained: this is something beautiful growing out of somewhere you least expect it; a motif introduced by rapper, 2pac, from the title of his poetry anthology- “The Rose that Grew from Concrete”.

The ‘Rose’, representing creatives emerging from situations and places where it’s near impossible to emerge from. The ‘Concrete’, being a man made substance that’s built to cover the ground, stopping anything underneath it from emerging. A reflection of places in society that are meant to keep people where they are, to stop them from ever coming through.

The hook delivers the lines: “We dream of paradise/ While under darker skies”. This, I find to be equally haunting and beautiful. For a closing track, it encapsulates the album perfectly. 

The album charts the trials and tribulations almost all rappers go through to break out, deservedly reaping all rewards when managing to emerge. However, it also paints the harsh reality of the many that look for the light, but can never reach it. A beautifully constructed album that I will regard as one of Bristol’s great, long remembered Hip-Hop albums.

Dreams of Paradise is now available on all platforms

You can catch Carasel live at the following nights:

April 2nd @ Black Swan (Supporting Skinnyman)

April 16th @ Hootananny (London album launch)

May 6th @ Trinity Bristol (supporting Slum Village)

+ Nass festival, Glastonbury, Nozstock, Hospitality on the Beach