Wiley : Treddin’ on Thin Ice

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When British rapper Dizzee Rascal burst onto the indie hip-hop radar last year, it seemed to most that the 19-year-old had single-handedly created his own sub-genre of hip-hop. His spastic break-neck flow over dirtied up video game blips and bleeps plus a healthy dose of UK garage beats gained Dizzee critical acclaim on both sides of the pond. Well, now, over a year after the fact, it’s being revealed to us Yanks that Dizzee is, in fact, the protégé of the real forefather of this new UK scene, an MC/producer by the name of Wiley. After developing his sound at pirate radio stations and raves for several years now, and after releasing two dozen singles on wax, Wiley has finally released his first full length, determined to show the rest of the world that he’s the original grimey rapper from the streets of London.

Critics and fans alike have had a difficult time classifying what to call the music that Wiley makes. This fact hasn’t escaped the artist, and he tackles the subject head on in the track “Wot Do U Call It?”. Taking on the voice of a discerning public, Wiley asks, “Wot u call it? Garage? Wot u call it? Urban? Wot u call it? Two step?” It turns out his style is none of these, or maybe an amalgamation of all three, blended into what he calls “Eskie beat” (short for Eskimo). In simpler terms, it’s the Dirty South meets UK Garage. Combined with a certain grittiness and flow that comes exclusively from the council estates of inner city London, “Eskie beat” is finally giving the UK some real cred in the hip hop world (sorry folks, the Streets don’t have any cred to hip-hoppers).

Unlike his protégé, Wiley’s flow is slower and more decipherable, making it easier for him to get away with club bangers, love songs and gangsta rap tracks all without sounding like he’s trying too hard to appeal to different tastes. The transitions between the content of his songs is seamless, allowing the listener to experience the duality of a rapper who is just as popular in the underground scene as he is in the dance club circuits of his native land. Even the most obvious radio and club hit on the album, “Special Girl,” and its annoyingly high-pitched female vocal chorus and cheesy love song banter, will appeal to the hippest of your hipster friends. And the track “Pies,” with its English nursery rhyme chorus, adds a bit of goofiness to the otherwise hard times tales related on the album.

The two greatest assets Wiley has going for himself is that he is inherently playful in his rhyme style, and he is very English, an attribute that escapes many Euros who aim to emulate American music and culture without realizing the uniqueness of their own. Wiley tells rough and tumble stories of the inner city, but with a sense of optimism that comes as a breath of fresh air. Only 24 years-old and already considered the “godfather” of his own scene, I’m sure much more can be expected from this up and comer.

Similar albums:
Dizzee Rascal – Boy in Da Corner
Any Oukast song that uses crazy techno beats
Any Dirty South song that flows super fast

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