The Hempolics’ debut album Kiss Cuddle & Torture Volume 1 is a fun and inventive debut record packed with zesty numbers from start to finish. Perhaps what makes The Hempolics so distinctive is their refusal to fully commit wholeheartedly to one genre – to describe them simply as a reggae artist would do an injustice to the complexity and creativity displayed on this record.
While the songs have a strong dub and reggae influence, each track has been seasoned with a mix of hip-hop, electronica, R&B, soul and cinematic-rock guitar riffs. Lead songwriter Grippa Laybourne seems to have cherry-picked his favourite musical styles from the genre buffet and tossed them into his mighty eclectic songwriting cauldron. Listening to Kiss, Cuddle & Torture Volume 1 is not too dissimilar from trying a peanut butter and jam sandwich, or licking salt before swigging tequila for the first time – combinations that seem strange and odd, yet complement each other in a unique way.
The Hempolics’ debut album was recorded across a stint of home recordings and bedroom bootleg sessions. Often, when a band shuns professional recording studios, the end product can be shoddy, resulting in an amateurish sound. The Hempolics, however, have added a new layer of gritty authenticity to their sound by recording in such an avant-garde manner.
The unpredictability of Kiss, Cuddle & Torture Volume 1 is one of the main strengths of the record which makes it stand out from other more monotonous reggae artists. The Hempolics’ sound transports the listener to a wide range of tropical locations, from the drab, grey, and soggy concrete jungle of decaying inner-city London to the warmth and brightness of the sun-soaked Caribbean.
You can experience this voyage yourself by listening to Kiss, Cuddle & Torture Volume 1 on all major digital platforms. Alternatively, if you prefer to watch artists sweat and squirm live in the flesh under bright flashing lights, then tickets are currently available for The Hempolics’ national UK tour.