Coming from out of the rough estates of North London, UK grime artist Skepta has swept the youth of the nation with his brash and fast paced raps spread over a 10 year career. He has come to prominence in the last two years with his huge hits ‘That’s Not Me’ and ‘Shutdown’ which still to this day sound brilliant and are at the top of the grime genre. His success has spread stateside as he has become friendly with Canadian rapper and global superstar Drake, who featured on Shutdown and brought Skepta out for his Wireless performance in 2015. This and an entourage performance on a Kanye West BRIT awards performance have meant that Skepta has played a pioneering role in making grime as big as it is today and now he’s back with a highly anticipated album called ‘Konnichiwa’. This release will only increase his following and influence even more people across London but will it hit the dizzying heights of Skepta’s recent success? Will we be saying hello to an album of the year contender or will we be giving this a sayonara?
Konnichiwa – 9/10
Traditional Japanese activity in the background at the start creates a setting for the song and motive behind the album. Absolutely brilliant beat then kicks in with a slight mix on a classic Boy Better Know track. He raps all about his unexpected rise from North London to being friends with Drake and performing at the Brit Awards. Does show this humble side by saying he “performed at the Brits and walked home in the rain” but that modesty soon disappears as he goes onto the widely regarded topic of grime MCs thinking they are the best. Skepta is soon to squash any possibility of someone taking his crown with this pulsating and classic opener. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come because this is fantastic.
Lyrics – 8/10
Begins with a soundbite of being told people don’t want to listen to his genre. Once again it’s a very quick transition into a catchy chorus where he raps about being heard on the radio and seen on the TV as if he is still surprised by his fame but that he is aware that he is flying the flag for UK rap music. This is a banger in that it’s got a catchy chorus which could be easily sung along to and has a solid feature with great verses. The beat has a great effect on it which has the occasional siren sound and what sounds like a game console sound within an otherwise basic beat and these effects make it very strong and create a new dimension and sound for the track. Not as good as the opener but still very very good and sends the message that is sure to make all UK rappers very optimistic for the future.
Corn on the Curb – 7/10
Passionate involvement at the start in which he reiterates the importance of carrying on fighting against prejudice and discrimination across the globe. A more aggressive side to Skepta, it’s clear this is more of a statement than a song as he shows this anger in the tone of his voice. This song goes from 0-100 when the legendary grime artist Wiley does his part on the hook which is brilliant and a much needed change from this pure attack from Skepta. Discussion of crime on the streets within this song as Skepta shows a struggle from being worried about being shot and not seeing his son yet the crime also entices him and his rebellious side. This song is COMPLETELY RUINED by the stupid phone conversation between Skepta and Chip which really does seem like a horrendously cheesy celebration of Skepta’s achievements and how he’s “turned the country on its head.” This is a good song and without the ridiculous phone call at the end it’s a great song.
Crime Riddim – 6.5/10
Very oriental styled beat, linking back to the ‘Konnichiwa’ album name and perhaps where he got some of his influence. A verbal attack on the police in this song as he encourages young black youth to not accept the authority provoking the black community. Despite this message he does basically come clean about fighting in the streets and probably being worthy of his arrest but he only says that in hushed tones in the bridge and not in his raps, perhaps protecting his reputation and his name from being a joke. It sure is a Crime Riddim but it gets ruined by this pathetic conversation between ‘roadmen’ and an American, it all just seems stupid and irrelevant which is a shame because once again it damages the song as a whole.
It Ain’t Safe – 8/10
Filthy beat with catchy lyrics and an infectious, rebellious chorus. What more can you want from a top draw grime song? “It ain’t safe on the block, not even for the cops” is repeated in the chorus and shows just how intense the rough areas of London are, but there’s an embracing of that attitude shown by Skepta here as he reminisces on how he would hide in his house and peak round the the corner to find them and make sure they don’t see him. The police activity would never stop him from committing crimes, even now it seems as he goes on about people disrespecting “the gang” and that he would start fights in the street no matter how famous he is. It is a good song with a hardcore beat, but I probably wouldn’t play it to the kids as it sends completely the wrong message. Whether or not it’s PC doesn’t stop it being a banger, mind you.
Ladies Hit Squad – 8.5/10
A huge feeling of A$AP Mob influence is felt as A$AP Jest provides the vocals on the chorus and I assume he helps with the production as well. This was released as a single a couple of weeks before and you can see why as it’s spaced out vibe has the feel of marijuana inspiration as well as a great chorus. Of all the verses, Skepta stands out as he is cheeky and sexual in his approach but hits the spot with his flow and rhyme which are both impeccable as ever. A different style of so to what we usually expect from Skepta but it’s welcome and creates one of the many highlights on this album.
Numbers – 7/10
Seems to continue with this deep, underground Harlem, New York style beat production which provides a fantastic platform for Skepta to release great verses. Smooth chorus with a sway style but could perhaps experiment more than the basic case of “numbers”. As well as this you do feel a bit short changed with Skepta’s verses as they are quite short and, at times, slack and slow. I liked the feature on the chorus but the actual verse he performs is boring and not very original. Skepta once again stamps his authority and ensures he doesn’t get outclassed on his own song which is a sure fire sign of the man’s talents.
Man – 9/10
Great shout for the best beat of the year alongside ‘Kanye West’s Father a Stretch My Hands Pt 1’. That absolutely phenomenal wobbly noise he creates on the main part of the beat makes it sound like a public service announcement and instantly grabs your attention, it’s absolutely incredible. Not to mention that twinned with that heavy bass on the verses it sounds even better and creates a great flow for Skepta to follow. The song is lyrically all about his monumental fame in this country and how he has a huge following that are only recently trying to link up with him. “I don’t know why man are calling me family all of a sudden” is a great line which highlights the lifestyle he lives and how he must find it near on impossible to trust anyone. A truly brilliant song, in the top three for the album.
Shutdown – 9.5/10
Skepta got Drake to feature on a grime song, that is all that needs to be said about this strike of genius. I have had the privilege of seeing this song live and to call it bedlam wouldn’t be doing it justice. It has captured the imaginations of young people all over the country and made people recognise the incredible work UK grime artists are doing to make the genre big. Without doubt the best part of this song is the inclusion of a public complaint about Kanye West’s BRIT Awards performance, in which grime artists such as Skepta, Stormzy, Krept and Konan created a menacing entourage and woke the public up to the reality of today’s youth. It truly was the performance of a group of talented visionaries. By including that complaint he is showing the stir he is causing and how he couldn’t care less. This song is brilliant, has dominated the club’s with its intense vibe and even charted in the UK, serious movements for the Grime scene.
That’s Not Me – 10/10
If Shutdown was a huge moment for UK grime, then the release of That’s Not Me was colossal. Released what seems like an eternity ago, Skepta and his brother, fellow grime artist JME, created a trance sound which people could vibe along to and started this wave of new school grime for artists such as Yungen, Krept & Konan and most notably Stormzy to create a catchy hook which would stand out to the youth of Britain who are crying out for a change. This was a club colossus and still is to this day, with both Skepta and JME supplying 10/10 verses which are as memorable as it gets for this genre. The message within the lyrics is also quite poignant as it challenges modern trends and tells people to go against the grain. “I used to wear Gucci but I threw it in the bin ‘cos that’s that’s not me” is another way of telling people to stop conforming to society’s rules and regulations and just being yourself. The best song on this album and probably the best grime song of the last decade, it’s that good.
Detox – 6.5/10
Well how do you follow those three songs up? With a psychedelic deep house beat and verses about weed of course. The beat is magical and another sign of Skepta’s genius production but the verses are a bit silly and aren’t really as solid as the standards he has usually set himself. Jammer is his usual crazy self on this song and, as is usually the case, you can barely understand what he’s saying but he flows well so that’s enough for us. The other features are ok but nothing more than that, Skepta again holds the best verse on this song but even hat isn’t of his highest quality. Probably the weakest actual song of the album but only has the same rating as Crime Riddim because that had the ludicrous phone conversation between the London boys and the American man.
Text Me Back – 8.5/10
Classic text tone sounds used at the start of the track makes the whole song feel like a real throwback in time to old school nokias. More of a love song than we’ve usually heard from Skepta but it works well and shows a different side to the North London rapper. Still uses his road talk but it’s quite romantic and with that comes a slight melody twinned with a filthy grime beat. Raps about his ambition and how sometimes he has to neglect his loved ones to make sure he earns the money to reward them for bringing him up. It’s a lovely message with a roadman twist, who would of thought someone could twist that? Definitely the most inventive and thought provoking song Skepta has released from this album and it works very well as a finale. The fade before the last 40 seconds makes you think it’s over but there’s a great smooth beat at the end, again sounding quite oriental and perhaps paying homage to that Japanese link to this album. I love this song and think it’s a side to grime artists that we don’t see enough, the more the merrier as we see more and more experimentation from this booming genre.
Overall – 8.5/10
Right up there for album of the year, heroic work from Skepta, considering he was just a lad from North London who would get into trouble and cause violence, seeming to have no direction in life. To create this is a masterstroke and quite frankly, it not only secures his place at the top of the grime scene for a very long time, it also entices and encourages others to release albums and only make the genre bigger, before eventually the end goal is achieved and it becomes accepted as a respected venture of musical direction. Only Kanye West’s album rivals this so far in 2016 which is some feat considering the huge names that have released projects already this year. It’s sure to be a grim classic and will be spoke about for years to come, congratulations Skepta, you’ve done it again.