Of all the up-and-coming talent in the world right now, there’s no one I root for more than Stefflon Don. Last year, the rapper dropped her sensational Real Ting Mixtape, a record featuring a score of honest, colourful and downright explosive tracks to critical acclaim, revealing Stefflon Don as a true underground talent.
One year later, that talent is going mainstream. First there was ‘Instruction’, the Jax Jones and Demi Lovato track on which Don has a brief rap verse, the first concrete sign of Don’s shift towards a more populist approach, and now comes ‘Hurtin’ Me’, a collaboration with Moroccan-American artist French Montana.
Thankfully, the Stefflon Don spark, that special something that makes her special, is still here. In fact, it’s unlikely any record exec could ever put it out, it feels so vital and essential to everything she produces. But ‘Hurtin’ Me’ is undoubtedly a sidestep towards the mainstream, Don’s bite having been turned into a pining purr and her raw sexuality having been given a cold shower. Yet ‘Hurtin’ Me’ is still a triumph, still Stefflon Don through and through.
On what is likely to be her breakout single, Don is in an uncharacteristically injured mood, yearning after an ex lover who has got themselves a new girlfriend. The production is typically lush, a reggae-flavoured throb of soft synth beats and rhythmic percussion. There is definitely more than a hint of Rihanna’s ‘Work’ here, particularly in the auto-tuned hum that separates the verses, but this is no real surprise – both Rih and Stefflon draw their inspiration from dancehall music, Don’s parents having been born in Jamaica.
While the collaborators on the Real Ting Mixtape, from Abra Cadabra to Jeremih, all felt like they were there for a reason, French Montana’s verse feels superfluous. There’s no need for an extra rapper when Stefflon Don can carry a rap track all on her own. She can both sing and rap – something she has proven time and time again – and the inclusion of a male rapper feels like a calculated attempt to appeal to a wider audience at best and pure misogyny at worst.
‘Hurtin’ Me’ may lack the ferocity of Don’s earlier tracks, but Stefflon’s softer side is equally compelling. Hopefully the track that will turn this star-in-waiting into a bona fide superstar, ‘Hurtin’ Me’ is another top track from Britain’s brightest emerging talent.