Over the last 3 years a second wave of street credible grime with sales success has risen in the UK thanks to MCs such as Novelist, Stormzy, JME and Skepta. To say Skepta has been the most successful of these MCs would be an understatement; chart hits, success in the USA and a partnership between Boy Better Know and Drake have come to pass. However, an album has been a long time in the making, which has led some to fear that Skepta’s Konnichiwa is over due and that Skepta may have missed his moment. Nothing could be further from the case.
As expected Skepta’s latest does contain all the singles we’ve all heard before and a million times over, It Ain’t Safe, That’s Not Me and Shutdown are all present. However, such was their urgency and brilliance on release they still sound fresh collected here. First concern dealt with.
Konniciwa’s sound and the evolution of Skepta is really tied to the North London MC’s ability to filter a contemporary USA sound through grime’s traditional bass heavy battle beats. And when I say filtering US hip hop through grime that is exactly what I mean, for despite the clear influences of A$AP Mob, Drake and others, grime takes pride of place. Such production techniques and the evolution of Skepta’s sound are most obvious on Ladies Hit Squad and Numbers both of which feature prominent US Hip Hop heads in the shape of Pharrell Williams and A$AP Nast but each tracks retains its grime sensibilities.
Konnichiwa features a huge number of guest spots from Wiley and JME through to US figureheads like Pharrell. However, it is a credit to Skepta that he always remains the main focus of each track and centre strage with the spotlight firmly on him. Furthermore when he decides to go it alone like on Man, he flourishes, proving to any critics (and he has had them) that he is a more than capable lyricist.
Skepta has always faced criticism that he is not as strong a lyricist as his brother and BBK partner JME, whilst he certainly is not as playful, creative or adventurous as JME, Konnichiwa does highlight Skepta’s own talents and features some stand out lines, a personal favourite of mine being: “our love’s strong like Mufasa and Simba”. It’s this lyrical playfulness and the willingness to embrace innocent similes and metaphors that has always made the BBK camp stand out from it’s road rap heavy rivals.
More than anything Skepta’s Konnichiwa offers a snap shot of the current grime sound, one which is now more creative and embracing than it has been at any time in its past. But also one which this time around is doing things for itself. An ethic, which has always been embraced by Skepta, he has grafted for this and the exceptional quality of Konnichiwa is proof of his hard work.
Right now it is Skepta’s time and if anyone in the grime scene deserves their time in the spotlight it is Skepta.