Ten years ago an unknown Mike Skinner implored us to “push things forward!” and leading from the front he gave us two albums that reinvented UK hip hop – ‘Original Pirate Material’ Streets
and follow up concept album ‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free’. The Streets sounded like no one else,
simply by beingn unquestionably British; documenting kebab shop scuffles over Compton drive-bys and giving us an alternative to the then unstoppable Streets
but hardly relatory – raps of Eminem.
Skinner remains true to his word today.
He said the fifth Streets record would be his last and ‘Computers & Blues’ definitely is.
It’s probably his third best record. It definitely features some
of his best tracks this side of ‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free’.
‘Puzzled By People’ is especially reminiscent of Skinner’s early high standard, featuring a late
’90s RnB piano hook and an auto-tuned soul vocal like those found in provincial clubs when UK garage first emerged.
‘Going Through Hell’ – all faux rock riffs and “Do it! Do it!” lairy refrains – assures us that ten years on the game hasn’t quashed the geez or humour in Skinner;
the double-dutch couplets of ‘Outside Inside’ that would twist and knot lesser skilled rhyming tongues suggest that The Streets might be
getting put to bed prematurely.
At the other end of the scale, down where the likes of 2008’s disappointing ‘Everything Is Borrowed’ stews in its misguided, commercial vibes,
are tracks like the almost passable ‘Roof of Your Car’ (a song so breezily aware of its own organ pop heart that it’s most likely to be the album’s lead single),
the even more annoyingly chipper ‘Without A Blink’ and the plainly
sickening ‘Blip On A Screen’, throughout which Skinner expresses his love for a foetus on a scan.
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