Mike Skinner, in 2020, is much more than just the Streets. DJ endeavours with Tonga Balloon Gang, niche Noisey Documentaries and countless musical aliases have broadened his artistic repertoire. It has been almost 10 years since the wordsmith’s previous work under his internationally adored moniker, and ‘None of us are Getting Out of This Life Alive’ signals a vast change in sonic direction.
Skinner’s unrivalled storytelling is still as nuanced as you would expect on this record, but his narratives do not comply with the tales of British laddism that were so prevalent on Original Pirate Material and A Grand Don’t Come For Free. The wordplay is more concerned with the technological diaspora we currently live in, rather than tripping balls in Amsterdam and consuming too much brandy. Mixtape opener ‘Call My Phone Thinking I’m Doing Nothing Better’, with Kevin Parker, conceptualises this from the start and Skinner is in fine form lyrically. “You know I’d give you my kidney, but don’t ever taker my charger” he remarks with those relatable, spoken word tones.
‘Phone Is Always In My Hand’ (featuring Dapz On The Map) is another where both artists contemplate the issues with phone dependency. The Brummies combine in proficient fashion to body Skinner’s greazy grime production.
Released at a time when interconnectivity is powered by social media and the internet, it isn’t surprising that this plays apart in the overriding narrative of ‘NOUAGOOTLA’. ‘I Wish You Loved You As Much As You Loved Him’ came with a typically unorthodox music video, which looks partly filmed using Zoom. Greentea Peng and Donae’O offer their harmonies to the bouncy, funky house inspired beat, which Skinner layers with an infectious, auto-tuned hook.
One of the record’s biggest strengths, also turns out to be the root of its most significant weakness too. Each of the 12 tracks features an artist, who all relish the opportunity to stretch their artistry over the multiplicity of genres Skinner puts them on. Kasien’s hook and verse on ‘Eskimo Ice’, a tune that pays homage to Wiley’s grime legacy, is unlike anything we have heard him on up to this point. At certain intervals, the mixtape feels slightly dependent on its collaborators, but this could be its purpose. After a decade long hiatus, where do the Streets fit in? Skinner is a known obsessive over ‘street’ music, but this landscape is completely different now to how it was 10 years ago.
Ms Banks’ verse adduces the best bar on the project’s entirety: “I’m from M&S babe, you’ve got a better chance at Lidl’s.” is genius and unapologetically sassy; It’s arguably Skinner-esque, using the paradigm of normality to make such provocation so clear.
‘I Know Something You Did’ is the finest representation of Skinner harvesting his experimentation with other aliases into the Streets lineage. The track’s slurry beat sounds straight from the artist’s ‘Darker The Shadow, Brighter The Light’ era and Jesse James Solomon’s velvety vocals lend some serious wordplay to the cut.
Jimothy Lacoste is another great addition to the mixtape and someone Skinner has openly confided in. Both artists were accused of parody when they started out, but ‘Same Direction’ is as good enough evidence as any that this has never been the case. Lacoste sounds like a young Tricky mumbling over the snare heavy production.
The laddish hedonism Skinner’s lyrics used to indulge in might not be so prevalent on NOUAGOOTLA, but his British nightlife analogies are still bang on the money. “Men are weird at the close of the PM, just ask a pretty girl to show you her DMs” is one of countless accurate depictions he makes on Take Me As I Am - a collaboration with Chris Lorenzo.
Despite being a Jump Up tune, this is arguably the most anthemic cut on the project’s entirety. Having such an array of features proves how powerful of a cultural force the Streets have been for British music in the 21st century: indie kids, ravers and stoners have all equally related to their ongoing social portrayals, and this mixtape is no different. NOUAGOOTLA is compliant in the drastic changes of modern 'street' music, and its future too.
WRITTEN BY LIAM CATTERMOLE