On his latest album, Skepta instigates a new, radiating sound from London, and with the help of his loyal calvary, he proves he's still the Capital's kingpin.
May has been the most incredible month for music, hasn’t it? Slowthai, Tyler The Creator, Steve Lacy, Flying Lotus, Injury Reserve, Santi and countless more have all contributed to such an eclectic mix of records; It’s been impossible to keep up. However, since the announcement of It’s release, there is one album we have been collectively counting down the days for. As you may have worked out, this is Skepta’s ’Ignorance Is Bliss’; an LP that sees the grime innovator observing the world around him like Attenborough examines wildlife on Our Planet.
Of course the topics Skeppie covers are slightly different to David, but the analogy is fitting when you listen to how deeply the North Londoner analyses society, mental health and his love of smoking weed: “I’m an asthmatic, weed fanatic, when I get high I leave the planet” he spits on Greaze Mode. ‘Konnichiwa’ was an effortlessly braggadocios portrayal of grime and Skepta’s new found fame, the album raged with imagery of flexing rappers and ballsy roadmen; this new LP is quite the contrary. The Nigerian Eagle is more sensitive, emanating suspicions of the people that surround him in the current climate of UK rap.
Album opener ‘Bullet From A Gun’ discharges all of the worries and woes Skepta has accumulated over the last three years, taking you into the disorientating world he has been living in. Lyrically, this tune is Adenuga at his best: “I’m calm with the heat in the kitchen, I was a young boy, my mum told me what my name really means and the power just kicked in”, referencing accidentally burning down his house as a child as well as the power of family in African-English communities in marginalised areas of the Capital.
Until yesterday, Nafe Smallz was the only announced feature on the album. With Skeppie’s network of mates he could have picked anyone to pen a verse down, but he has stayed true to his vision and appointed such a versatile list of rappers and vocalists for Ignorance Is Bliss. ‘Redrum’ exemplifies an eclectic mix of oriental instrumentals, governed by Skepta and collaborator ‘Key!’ who both murder the beat with a ferocious collection of bravado led bars. Another stand out feature is Lancey Foux on ‘Animal Instinct’; his effortless range of pitch adds an extra dimension to the LP, portraying this yin and yang view on life Adenuga analyses throughout the record’s entirety.
Although the guest spots are restrained, you don’t come away from the project feeling more would be necessary. The aesthetic adopted by, nicknamed, Chief SK is one completely unique to himself. Honestly, this album isn’t grime, It’s not road rap, It’s not hip hop - you get the feeling It is the spark of a new UK genre that embraces the influence London is having on the rest of the world. Wizkid is not listed for a classic UK rendition of afrobeat, instead Skepta slots him on a more quintessentially British rhythm; one of the very few upbeat sonical moments on the record.
You can't review this album without mentioning the chemistry of BBK on penultimate tune 'Gangsta'. Shorty, Frisco, Jammer and JME marinade the warped grime instrumental with their individualistic flows; the staccato melody ignites some of the best bars we've heard from the collective in ages. 'What Do You Mean?' is another highlight; you wouldn't have known J Hus spent the last year in prison as his unmatchable swagger shows no signs of hindrance.
This album won't see the same commercial success as Skepta's mercury winning 'Konnichiwa', but what it does prove is he is still one of the most celebrated artists of our generation. As experimental as the album seems, this project is intrinsic to SK and the rest of London, and will go down in the folklore of grime's evolution.