In 2017, Ambush’s cousin Nuno Cardoso died in police custody. With protesters around the world mobilising in solidarity with the US Black Lives Matter movement following the death of George Floyd, it’s a striking time for the Camden rapper to release his latest project, Ask My Brother, in which he paints a fierce image of the fragility of life.
In 2018, he released a remix of his buoyant song Jumpy featuring Chip and Skepta, paying tribute to Cardoso and two other friends who died. Two years later, that pain is more acute on AMB (InTrill), a ferocious display of candour and bleakness. His voice cracks, the bass writhes and the piano yearns. There are high moments amid the sombre tone: on Casino he raps with the kind of clarity and confidence that’s often associated with Meek Mill, while Started offers the unexpected treat of D Double E riding a drill beat with the deftness only a 20-plus-year veteran MC would have. These songs could soundtrack raves, but Ambush’s intimate, expressive writing is a poignant reimagining of the rap anthem that hits harder at a time of pronounced state violence and social isolation.
We often hear the names of Nuno Cardoso, Mark Duggan and Sean Rigg, but seldom do we hear about the lives of their loved ones and how they must pick up the pieces after these losses. On Ask My Brother, Ambush paints the stark and unembellished truth about London and life for the young black men who live there: under surveillance and constant threat.