“Wanted a scene and I built one” — no other line on Wiley’s latest offering better captures what he is to grime, and what this album represents at this point in his career.
Aptly titled ‘Godfather’, the elder statesman of grime’s eleventh studio album is a celebration of everything that he has achieved, with the veteran MC striking a balance between looking back at where he has been, and reflecting on where he finds himself now.
On the opening track, Wiley defiantly exclaims: “If I wanna bring 25 MCs out, I’ll bring them all” — and over the course of the album he very nearly hits that number. With features from Roll Deep and BBK members, old protégés, one-time adversaries and fellow grime-scene pioneers, the album feels like a culmination of Wiley’s story to this point. Naturally there isn’t space on one album for every chapter of that story; there’s no appearance from protagonists/antagonists such as Tinchy, Doogz, Trim or Dizzee, for example. But that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
Perhaps the best moments on the album come, as in his career, when Wiley is trading bars with another MC; going 16-for-16 with Devlin on ‘Holy Grime’ (one of them most underrated tracks of last year), and line-for-line with Scratchy on the chorus to ‘Bait Face’.
Jamakabi and Flowdan’s inclusion is a pleasing nod back to a time when the Jamaican accent was far more prominent in grime (compare ‘Pow (Forward)’ to ‘Pow 2011’ for reference). Although perhaps missing is a similar nod to the newest generation of MCs; a move that would nicely complete the picture of grime’s development. But given that Wiley brought the likes of Chip and Ice Kid into the scene from childhood, it’s not unreasonable for them to provide the scene’s younger voices.
As is so often the case, Wiley’s humour and honesty is what lends his lyrics their charm, and quips like “I’m not a lager lout, but I still throw bars about” and even “fresh out the oven like a Sunday roast” have such an inherent Britishness that they could only really come from the mouth of grime’s archetypal MC.
Whether its the skippy garage of ‘Back With A Banger’, the grandiosity of ‘Holy Grime’, the R’n’G flavour of ‘You Were Always’ or the Eski tinges of countless other tracks, Wiley is as at-home as ever delivering countless punchlines, boasts and perhaps most importantly, reflections on his time as an artist — from jungle MC to Godfather of grime. Wiley might be increasingly aware of his age — recently saying that it’s time for him to grow up now that he’s approaching 40 — but it goes without saying that he hasn’t lost what has made him a permanent fixture of British music for so long.
Words: James Kilpin
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