Rap is fun, rap is clever, rap is talented but now rap is “key.” Mike Skinner, the outcast of Britain’s garage-band movement in the mid-90s, has taken his true passion of rhyming and revolutionized rapping. Quirky lyrics and an adorable voice make Skinner’s project known as The Streets, extremely loveable and witty. Unlike the run-of-the-mill music in Birmingham, where Skinner originally hails from, he shook “party-hardy” Britain with hip beats veiled with social commentary wrapped in a rhyme. Beginning at age 15 and working awful jobs with little pay, Skinner never gave up and the first song he ever wrote, “Has it Come to This?”, which was picked up by Locked On record label in 2000. Locked On Records is mostly famous for their club music and dance jams. Soon enough, The Streets were on Britain’s Top 20 list and that was only the beginning. Skinner absorbed his fame for the next couple years as his music reached a variety of audiences, which is more than most garage groups or dance club mixers can say. In 2003, The Streets album A Grand Don’t Come For Free was released with ultimate success not only in Britain, but in the United States, as well. A Grand Don’t Come For Free is the album I’m reviewing because it’s not only exploding with wit and talent, but it tells a story from song to song, making it inventive and enveloping. Even if you don’t like rap, hear me out, you’ll love The Streets.
Our tale begins with Mr. Mike Skinner trying to get a deal organized when he finds that one of his friends has stolen the money he needs from his flat in the opening track, “It was Supposed to be Easy.” As songs go from serious to sensitive, the catchiness lingers on throughout. Also, in our story, we find of Mike falling in love with a girl in tracks in “Could Well Be In” (my personal favorite) and “Wouldn’t Have it Any Other Way.” The most heartfelt rap song I’ve ever heard can be found on A Grand Don’t Come For Free as Skinner retells the devastation of a break up in “Dry Your Eyes.” The love songs are a bit slower and lean to the romantic side of our favorite British rapper, but he doesn’t forget how important boppy beats are to a rap album.
Tracks like “Such a Twit” and “What is He Thinking?” ring a nearer bell to gangster and take a more serious tone. But if serious is not your thing, “Get Out of My House” and “Fit but You Know It” are nothing less than hilarious.
As your ears wander through this rap mastery, there is something for everyone. Tons of irresistible British slang, goofy insults and even a dab of heartbreak invites everyone to enjoy The Streets. The first album entitled Original Pirate Material, is available through The Streets’ Web site, www.the-streets.co.uk. Another interesting tid-bit is that if you are into Bloc Party, The Streets have remixed their song “Banquet” which will be available on Bloc Party’s next album. Definitely something to look forward to.
Check out The Streets, become a fan and pick up A Grand Don’t Come For Free.