“There's beauty in creating something that wasn’t there before,” repeats an omniscient voice throughout Ragz Originale’s BARE SUGAR, the North London do-it-all artist’s debut album. Before BARE SUGAR, Ragz was far from a fringe musician: his work with Skepta earned Ragz an Ivor Novello nomination, and has continued to build on his reputation with solo releases and collaborations alike in recent years. However, pressing play on BARE SUGAR reveals a presence that wasn’t as strong on earlier projects. The music is refined, emboldened by the voice that echoes each track and the mind that engineered the backdrop of the album. It's not that the artist we hear in Ragz wasn’t always there, it's that we had yet to meet him. It’s not as much that BARE SUGAR was created from something that wasn’t there before, but rather that we are introduced to a side of Ragz previously undiscovered. In what is realized, there is beauty abound.
Ragz textures the terrain of BARE SUGAR with his production, flowing in and out of pockets with his effortless stream of swagger. Each synth, for which there are plenty, feels eternally connected, each song echoing a different pulse of the same vital system. The effortless continuity of the album gives way to its conflicting themes of love and lust; while they coexist, Ragz approaches them with the same temperament, level-headed and sure-footed when dancing around the duality of infatuation. For added perspective, Ragz enlists a collection of like-minded artists to muse with: his heart-to-heart with Bakar on the ultra-moody “long stay” argues convincingly for commitment; he ruminates with 24hoursav and Dua Saleh on the impulse-driven “what comes next”; Sampha proves the perfect partner for reminiscing on the wonderfully nostalgic “flashbacks.” Outside of his collaborations, Ragz gives the project its true identity, making sure to make the album his own with each opportunity. He’s uniquely polished, whether that be with his well-calculated charisma on “radio silence” or in the truly romantic gesture that is “pay ur bills.”
Beauty comes in many shapes, forms, and sounds - where beauty is most obvious on BARE SUGAR is in the growth of Ragz Originale, a tastemaker evolved into a true visionary. All that defines BARE SUGAR feels natural, its superpower held in Ragz’s uncompromising finesse. An overwhelming flood of confidence and personality, BARE SUGAR immediately emerges as one of the summer’s best listens.