Nerve - Tall Poppy Season (REVIEW)
Updated: Nov 8, 2021
Last Friday saw Brisbane artist, rapper and producer Nerve releasing his latest EP, ‘Tall Poppy Season’, out to the world. The lead in to the EP’s release saw three singles dropped ahead of time, including the blistering and multi-layered ‘MIGRAINES’, the melodic and unexpected ‘MISSED CALLS’ and the continuation of Nerve’s expert partnership with JK-47, ‘ONE IN A MILLION’. In addition, what we must acknowledge and commend is Nerve and his team’s reshaping of the EP’s aesthetic in a matter of weeks before the project was put out. A phenomenal effort which resulted in an outstanding result.
The EP features an unexpected but welcome bonus track entitled ‘TALL POPPIES NEVER DIE’, meaning the Brisbane-based artist has matched his eight-track long 2019 EP ‘Mumma’s Boy'. By contrast however, ‘Tall Poppy Season’ is Nerve’s truest extension of himself as an artist by far, encompassing the multitude of talents he has on offer through a genre-bending collection of tracks that speak to where he’s at in his life at the moment.
‘MIGRAINES’ endears itself as the EP’s opener not just because of the catchiness of Nerve’s bars; “Tryna buy time but I don’t cop watches, Aussie export like Fosters”, but the manner in which Nerve evokes how overpowering the noise of the outside world is for him. The track reels us in with a dark and slow tempo that sees a jaded Nerve relaying a statement of his struggles in trying to make it in the hip-hop scene and how it has affected those around him. From there, Nerve & fellow producer Businessman rise to the occasion, gifting us a variety of beat switch-ups and upbeat, unpredictable tempos that allow for the Brisbane MC to hit us with that high octane delivery that we have come to know and love. The ominous conclusion of ‘MIGRAINES’ harnesses Nerve’s moody, enhanced vocals to reflect his own dilemmas in delineating between love and lust. An all-round fantastic start to the EP.
‘ONE IN A MILLION’ ft JK-47
Everything about ‘ONE IN A MILLION’ is flawless. From the wicked combination on production between Nerve and Jay Orient to the effortless flow from Nerve and JK-47, all of it means that any fears of a lesser follow-up to the pair’s previous linkup, ‘Sunday Roast’, will be instantly allayed. On an initial listen you would be forgiven for thinking that this will just be a festival banger with no real meaning behind it. However, the song is significantly deeper. Both Nerve and JK-47 stamp down the importance of being yourself and not conforming to the norms which society has deemed as acceptable. Instead, they empower you to be yourself and to be ‘ONE IN A MILLION’. A special mention needs to go out to Jay Orient and Nerve for having the perfect backing track; because that beat leaves us bumping immediately every time.
‘BABY STOP RUNNING YOUR MOUTH’
On this track we see Nerve showcasing his vulnerability in a way we haven’t seen before as he takes his time to reflect on a past relationship and the tumultuous rollercoaster that it led him on during its course. In ‘BABY STOP RUNNING YOUR MOUTH’, we see him trying to move on and continue with his life in spite of his attachments to this relationship. Moreover, Nerve expresses a desire to be an improved version of himself every day in an effort to continue to perfect his craft as an artist. He does not want to be bogged down by the glitz and the glamour; he wants to be remembered as one of the greats in music. Thematically, this track is a microcosm for what the EP stands for, this being that Nerve wants to produce truly great art that reflects who he is in the present. Additionally, the ensemble of backing vocals on this track are a beautiful accompaniment.
‘WHO THAT? (KNOW ME)’
‘WHO THAT? (KNOW ME)’ is a track rooted in the soulful influences that have ushered hip-hop throughout its history. Lyrically, Nerve leads the listener through multiple passages in his subconscious, including his struggle to push past the internalisation of his emotions, his amusement at the doubters who now show him adoration and his desire to recognise the efforts of those around him, including Brisbane’s No. One Network and those closest to him. A gorgeous multi-layered refrain – “Been thinking night and day ‘bout whether we’d be wasting life away, Mumma told me just do the work get paid, but what if this take over my brain?” – is accentuated by the production by Nerve, 18yoman and Len20 which features enhanced ephemeral vocals and subtle guitar strings that instigate one to ponder their own life up until this point. The delight of hearing the use of BOY SODA’s vocals (a mixture of which the Sydney artist both intended & didn’t intend for Nerve to use) caps off what is a truly wonderful track.
‘MISSED CALLS’ is the epitome of Nerve’s musical journey up until this point. In it, we hear Nerve expressing lyrically introspective bars and one liners in order to convey his feelings on the achievements he’s made and the changes he’s undergone in his music career thus far. His music has been the catalyst for him to change from a boy to a man, causing him to get serious about life and the relationships of those around him. The ‘missed calls’ are a reminder of the unwanted distractions that keep knocking on his door, and it is through choosing the right pathways and relationships that he has found self-empowerment as an artist and human being. The production on this track from SKARO BEATS & Nerve enhances the message wholeheartedly as it presents a raw and melancholic aura that reflects the intimate nature of Nerve’s vocals and bars.
‘WALK & TALK, PT. 4’ ft Nokz78
The fourth installment in the ‘Walk & Talk’ series sees Nerve bringing along fellow Brisbane MC Nokz78 for the ride. Nerve’s self-aware and playful lyrics speak on the ironies he sees in the music scene, with bars such as: “Some other brothers rapping just about as dumb as they act, money money I got money something something ‘bout racks” parodying the performative nature of flexing. Nokz78 then hits listeners with a confident and unrelenting verse which acknowledges the resilience of himself and those around him in striving for the very top. The bouncy, lively trumpet that is present throughout the track gives this ‘Walk & Talk’ a unique flavour, ensuring you’ll be wanting a serving of this track again and again.
Monstrous, demonic synths open this track, one which solidifies Nerve as one of the strongest MCs in the scene. ‘LOVE NO1’ is Nerve’s testament to not just his own self-belief and unwavering confidence as an artist, but to his love for performing live and delivering a show which will leave fans gassed for weeks on end afterwards. ‘LOVE NO1’ is made for being performed live and the relentless energy it exudes will leave you wanting to get to a Nerve set right away. The message Nerve hammers down in the track is something we can wholeheartedly get behind, trust in yourself and your instincts when faced with the negative intentions of those who bring to you deceit and distraction.
‘TALL POPPIES NEVER DIE – Bonus’
‘TALL POPPIES NEVER DIE’ is the conclusion to ‘Tall Poppy Season’ that Nerve has referred to as a surprise to his fans who weren’t expecting its inclusion on the EP. ‘TALL POPPIES NEVER DIE’ reaffirms a message that is intrinsic to this EP’s foundations, this being that society’s tendency to de-elevate those striving for the top is what negates any chance to grow as people. Furthermore, an obsession with accumulating wealth for oneself with little desire to see others succeed is what kills momentum dead, as Nerve states: “paper ties a rope next minute you both choke”. As far as final statements go on music projects, this is as pertinent a memo as one could ask for.
With ‘Tall Poppy Season’ we can firmly state that Nerve has delivered not just an enlivening and rapturous listen, but a project which reaffirms his desire to evolve as an artist. The project highlights to the listener much of what Nerve has learnt in his years within the Australian music scene, as the Brisbane artist calls out the hypocrisies and fundamentally backwards aspects that do little other than cause the scene to falter, rather than to grow.
The EP sees Nerve building on the impressive groundwork he has established through his accomplishments to date, with a perfect balance of bar-heavy expressions of confidence matched by slower moments which seek to display Nerve in a light unfamiliar to listeners. Ultimately, ‘Tall Poppy Season’ is Nerve’s expression of his innermost thoughts, and within every track there is something for the listener to take in and learn from.
Words by Joachim Subramaniam & Matthew Badrov
Published May 26th, 2021.