Thursday, August 11, 2011

ALBUM REVIEW: Wiley - 100% Publishing

It's easy to see why grime has had a hard time gaining traction when it comes to crossing over to U.S. audiences. Though it's long been the most popular of the U.K.'s homegrown strains of hip-hop, it can't help but sound rather alien to American ears. Forged out of rave, danchall and, of course, U.S. rap, the genre can sound harsh and unfinished to those weaned on domestic styles based around samples of funk, soul and the entire spectrum of black American music. It's closest analogue in this country is probably hyphy's twisted, harsh version of Miami bass nastiness (E-40, Keak Da Sneak, et al.), which, while creatively vibrant, isn't exactly a chart and air play sensation.

But it would seem that there's more keeping grime from becoming more popular on U.S. shores than a lack of easy stylistic access points, especially given the talent of its leading lights. Take Wiley, whose latest, "100% Publishing" offers a plethora of head-bobbing breaks, electro flourishes and tongue-twisting rhymes. I hestitate to use the word "inspirational", mainly because it sounds like I'm going to ask you if you've heard the good word, but the general vibe of the album stresses the importance of getting on one's grind and staying there, putting in the work to build not only his own career, but a scene and a community. Make no mistake, there's no lack of bravado here; Wiley has no qualms about telling you how sick he is, but there's also a affective sincerity when he raps about trying to stay focused and push things to the next level, as on the CD only bonus track "Music Not the Money".

Refreshingly, it's apparent that these sentiments aren't just talk. The album derives its name from the fact that Wiley took on all aspects of the its creation; beyond writing and rhyming he's the sole producer, and even mastered the tracks himself. For many, this would seem to be a case of biting off more than one can chew, but Wiley tackles both aspects with aplomb, resulting in tracks that are as danceable as they are lyrically satisfying.

In the end, it's difficult to tell exactly why American audiences remain so unreceptive (or at least unaware) of grime, and by extension the whole of the U.K.'s MC culture. From the very beginning, rap has had a fierce sense of place, but there's never anything to be gained by being xenophobic. Especially when it comes to records this good.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...