Living and breathing amalgamation of punk and hip-hop, UK artist RAT BOY made a wave across international waters with his debut album, SCUM, back in 2017. The sprawling twenty-five track debut served as not just a striking compilation that managed to evoke the Beastie Boys, The Clash, Run DMC, and Beck all in the same train of thought but signaled the introduction of a new, impossible to ignore voice in the realm of punk and hip-hop's continued crossover. RAT BOY delivers on that early promise with his sophomore effort, INTERNATIONALLY UNKNOWN.
Wherein SCUM's expansive 25-track run felt like RAT BOY gifting the world with everything he had worked on over the few years prior to its release, INTERNATIONALLY UNKNOWN's 11 tracks, clocking in at 34 minutes, feel like the work of an artist with a refined vision. Linking up with Tim Armstrong of Rancid and '90s punk/hip-hop supergroup the Transplants fame, to produce the sophomore album, the worlds of a Los Angeles punk veteran and a young Essex upstart unfurl to reveal a shared love of hip-hop beats and punk's visceral energy.
Bursting forward with proper explosive power, the sensational sophomore showing kicks off with "CHIP ON MY SHOULDER," Introducing the world of INTERNATIONALLY UNKNOWN as one with a noted disdain for agencies representing power and where one's best form of education is a school of hard knocks. The punk ethos is unwavering throughout INTERNATIONALLY UNKNOWN, which certainly makes it a great punk album, but what makes it such a standout album is the way in which it plays with musical tropes to present the genre in an increasingly interesting light.
From the reggae-infused "MY NAME IS RAT BOY" and "NIGHT CREATURE," the banjo-twanging inclinations that flow in and out of "DON'T HESITATE," to just outright unconventional production, INTERNATIONALLY UNKNOWN is quite unlike anything else before it.
Like a punk Odelay-era Beck, RAT BOY fills his music to the brim with characteristics of every genre imaginable and samples, which are often comical but provide a profound amount of situational context. More than anything, INTERNATIONALLY UNKNOWN feels like a remarkably straightforward exposure to RAT BOY as an artist. The young Essex upstart spoke on creating his sophomore album, sharing,
"I wanted to do this completely differently because 'SCUM' took so long, and I was learning the whole way through making it. I wanted to make something more personal and raw, which reflected me more. I was trying to find that sweet spot between hip-hop and punk, and Tim really understands that stuff. I've never really spoken to anyone else who loves hip-hop and punk like I do."
There is an inherent irony to INTERNATIONALLY UNKNOWN. For an artist working in a genre at the fringes of mainstream culture, RAT BOY's punk ethos is clearly striking a chord far beyond Essex. With a killer sophomore album now out in the world and set to make his Coachella debut, the days of RAT BOY being 'internationally unknown' are soon to be a thing of the past.