I’ve gotta say, folks. I’ve gotta say it – hell, watch me: I’m saying it.
It’s very nice seeing someone from Aberdeen succeed. Nick Cronin, AKA Vagrant Real Estate, has been DJing and producing for years now, but it’s in 2020 that the fruits of his labours really started to bloom.
A prototypical modern hip-hop producer needs a palette of many colours, and Vagrant Real Estate does just that. Seamlessly drifting between higher tempo drill, grime, and more spacious, boom-bap beats, Cronin’s excellent collaboration ‘Glass Half Full’, with Buffalo NY’s Ynx716, is the producer’s most coherent work yet, with artful lyricism sitting atop luscious jazz and soul samples. There’s even room for witty vignettes, with MF DOOM-style sampling of TV, film and radio.
An incredibly adaptable musician, Cronin is able to cater to MCs, rather than the other way round. This comes from notable influences:
“The main entry points for me to US music and hip-hop in general were Eminem and Kanye, with the latter in particular sparking my interest in production. I loved the ability to take a record, break it apart and rebuild something entirely new, and immediately set out trying to understand how it was done. From looking further into those two I discovered Alchemist and Dilla, who are two of my strongest influences to this day.”
The Kanye influence is clear on ‘Glass Half Full’ with the selection of obscure sound textures, the evidence of really committed crate-digging and love of craft. That said, there’s a very UK-specific focus in his other work, making Vagrant Real Estate a threat on multiple fronts.
Cronin makes this point better by himself:
“I try to position myself as very versatile in my production rather than sticking to a specific lane, as I get as much enjoyment out of the Griselda style sound as I do the Grime and Drill artists working closer to home.”
Always a keen supporter of the Aberdeen scene, Vagrant Real Estate has grown alongside Ransom FA and Chef, who are generating lasting hype through their incisive and enterprising MCing.
“The Aberdonian scene for hip-hop was almost non-existent when I started compared to how it is now, so it’s definitely easier to find coverage nowadays. Before the madness of 2020 kicked in, guys like The Dojo were starting to put on shows and bringing artists up which is what I feel the city really needs, especially when you have acts like Peach doing so well further south.”
With eyes equally fixed on sounds both local and transatlantic, Cronin is very clear about the sound aesthetic he aspires to, and what doesn’t cut it. Not to be confused with a backpack rap fan, however, he’s interested in mainstream hip-hop, but only the stuff that makes a critical dent on the culture.
“I think ‘Glass Half Full’ is tapping into the more underground style of hip-hop that’s growing just now, with a return to lyricism over gritty and soulful production. I feel it’s had a surge in popularity as a response to the almost cookie-cutter current wave of trap-pop, which often has no real lyrical content to speak of and computerised beats. In terms of the underground scene I think it’s the strongest it’s been in a long time, there’s so many great artists.”
Looking ahead, Cronin has advice for the fledgling producers in Scotland and has news for anyone thinking he’ll quiet down in 2021.
“Just go for it – there’s never been a better time to get into it as now everything can be done from a computer in your room. I got hung up on reaching “perfection” and didn’t put anything out because I was told early on not to, and that was the worst advice. You’re always constantly learning, and the internet is an incredible tool for doing so – you can get free tutorials, trials of software and all kinds of free sounds online that gives you more than enough to start with.
In terms of 2021, I’ve got some exciting collaborations ahead as well as a couple albums, both instrumental and vocal-led, that I’m really looking forward to releasing.”
We can’t recommend ‘Glass Half Full’ enough – its laid-back, gritty beats perfectly match Ynx716’s gruff delivery; fans of Raekwon will nod along to tracks like “ACCEPTANCE INTERLUDE” and “RAP FANS”. With a wide range of abilities and an ear for both the nostalgic and the future-proof, Nick Cronin AKA Vagrant Real Estate has every chance of being Scotland’s next big name in hip-hop production.
If Hudson Mohawke can go from happy hardcore to producing for Kanye, what’s stopping Vagrant Real Estate?