‘Let me tell you why I’m the King of Grime…’, brags Joseph Junior Adenuga, aka Skepta, in album opener ‘Reflecting’. Admittedly, North London’s foremost DJ-cum-producer-cum-MC has grounds for gloating; Skepta has carved out a reputation for himself on the North London grime scene as something of a shrewd operator, establishing prominent label/collective Boy Better Know with brother JME, and teaming up with grime mogul Wiley last year to record a UK Top 100 single in ‘Rolex Sweep’.
He also created a minor dance phenomenon in the process; imagine a chronometrically-themed, grimey Macarena, and you’re some way towards imagining the song’s bizarre music video. Incidentally, it’s fellow wristwatch-enthusiast Wiley who is Skepta’s main contender, set to release his fourth studio album Race Against Time on the same day as Skepta’s Microphone Champion.
Don’t worry though, kids – Wiley’s appearance on second track ‘Are You Ready’ confirms that this feud is nothing but a thinly-veiled publicity stunt, the pair engaging in a staged war of words over familiar shudders of mid-tempo electro. While lyrically solid, it’s not long before we’re treated to the first unnecessary chorus of the album: ‘You can’t threaten me with no bad-man talk/I’m not scared, sorry man’ repeated three times, followed by: ‘I’ve seen so much, now I don’t give a monkey’s/I swing from tree to tree, just like monkeys’.
Unfortunately, it’s only on opening track ‘Reflecting’ that Skepta mercifully declares ‘no chorus’. The mindnumbingly repetitive refrains very soon start to grate; in recent single ‘Sunglasses At Night’, Skepta barks: ‘Roses are red, violets are blue/You know that I got my eyes on you’. The old charmer.
And, of course, there’s ‘Rolex Sweep’. This really is a terrible song; the sort of content-lite drivel that epitomises the recent glut of electro-grime-meets-pop-seeks-chart success. The result is one that radically compromises Skepta’s artistic integrity, and is unlikely to appeal to anyone who isn’t a drunk student in a club.
That said, there is a handful of decent tracks amongst the sixteen: sleazy ‘Look Out’ has UK Hip-Hop MC Giggs deliver his sinister lyrics through a dark, syrupy bassline, layered with pitch-dipping techno synths; wild card track ‘Skepta’ is great fun, ditching all lyrical sincerity for something a bit more funky.
These tracks may flaunt Skepta’s abilities behind the mixing desk, but the irony of the album’s title is that his rhymes aren’t the centrepiece that they should be; gone are the intelligent lyrics that characterised his 2007 debut Greatest Hits, surrendered in return for sing-song choruses and gratuitous guest appearances. And a new Macarena.
Two Stars out of Five