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Published on July 9th, 2019 | by voxx

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Skepta – Ignorance is Bliss

The conflicted Tottenham MC is still the most compelling voice in grime…

He might be one of the biggest names in UK rap, but fame hasn’t sat easily with Skepta since chucking his Gucci in the bin on 2014 single ‘That’s Not Me’. So while he helped kickstart grime’s 2.0 renaissance and cemented his international appeal with last year’s scene-stealing appearance on A$AP Rocky’s Praise The Lord, this follow-up to 2016’s Mercury Prize-winning Konnichiwa finds the 36-year old almost in a state of denial, trying to shut out the noise created by his own success.

During recording, Skepta says he changed his number to avoid distractions and tried to rap more intuitively: “just spitting it like it is.” That #nofilter approach lends his delivery arresting clarity, though he should have checked himself on the UK drill-inspired ‘Redrum’ with its crass Ike Turner reference. By contrast, the sound of the album seems far more carefully crafted. Unlike the stylistic patchwork of Konnichiwa, it’s a winningly fluid mix of on-trend beats, intriguing cameos and subtle, Eastern-influenced melodies. Opener ‘Bullet From A Gun’ finds him reflecting on fame and recent fatherhood over mesmerising synth tones, while early stand-out ‘Greaze Mode’ winds a sinuous riddim around the nasal croon of rising R&B star Nafe Smallz.

There’s the odd rewind to the old school – ‘Gangsta’ is a tongue-in-cheek, mob-handed banger featuring the Boy Better Know crew. Yet it’s the soulful, J Hus-assisted ‘What Do You Mean?’ and Afrobeats-inspired ‘Glow In The Dark’ which linger. Such moments also speak of an artist more alive to outside influence than he might want to admit, but then Skepta’s enduring contradictions are part of what makes him such a vital part of grime’s continuing evolution.

- By Jake White


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