The Streets - Original
by Dan Grote
Streets - Original Pirate Material
Turn The Page
Has It Come To This?
Let's Push Thing's Forward
Same Old Thing
Geezer's Need Excitement
It's Too Late
Too Much Brandy
Don't Mug Yourself
Who Got The Funk?
Irony Of It All
Weak Becomes Heros
Who Dares Wins
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From the land of Radiohead and bands that
sound kinda like Radiohead comes an artist who sounds nothing like Radiohead.
MC Skinner, a.k.a. the Streets, is England’s
first white rapper. Now, this isn’t to say that our friends across the
pond have their own Eminem. In fact, the Streets’ work is nothing like
his American counterpart’s. Although in America, a nom de rap like the
Streets might imply some connection to the ghetto (and would most likely
be spelled Da Stritz), in England such a moniker refers to life in suburban,
Labor-run England, and the birds and geezers who inhabit it.
Furthermore, the rapper’s debut, Original
Pirate Material, is not a celebration of ego or namechecking enemies. Skinner
has his own predictions for his work: “Cult classic, not best seller.”
And with his album of minimalist beats and a delivery that sounds like
he’s reading his lyrics off the paper he scribbled them on, the truth is
he’s a little too out there for your average hip-hop fan.
Of course, it’s this same thousands of
miles of distance from American rap that puts him in a league of his own,
with little risk of sounding derivative. Over the course of Original Pirate
Material, the listener comes to learn a whole new set of lingo (sample
slang lesson, from “Let’s Push Things Forward:” “Over here we say birds,
not bitches”). Annoying men are geezers, getting angry is getting larry,
and when things go bad, then go pear-shaped. Such is the casual lexicon
of a 23-year-old weed aficionado and Playstation junkie.
Lyrically and musically, there’s no lack
of incredible moments on this album. “The Irony of It All” details a battle
of who’s-holier-than-thou between a violent drunk and a peaceful pothead,
featuring this wonderful lyrical scenario: “Oh, pizza’s here. We didn’t
order chicken. Not a problem, we’ll pick it out. I doubt they meant to
mess us about. After all, we’re all adults, not louts.” It’s these moments,
when Skinner drops the cockney and shifts to the Queen’s English that provide
some of the most humorous points on the album, usually stressing his best
Other highlights include “Don’t Mug Yourself,”
about going crazy over a girl that’s not worth it, “Geezers Need Excitement,”
about the mindset of England’s soccer hooligan culture, and “Too Much Brandy,”
on which Skinner attempts his best Scarface impression.
When he’s not talking about geezers and
planning trips to Amsterdam (“top gear there”), Skinner is looking for
love and criticizing the government. “It’s Too Late” finds Skinner trying
desperately to reconcile with a girlfriend but can never bring himself
to show up anywhere on time. The penultimate track, “Who Dares Wins,” ends
with Skinner’s salutation to parliament: “and to the government I stick
my middle finger up with regards to the criminal justice bill.”
VERDICT: If The Streets wasn’t the last
amazing debut of 2002, then he should be considered the first great new
artist of 2003. Skinner’s mix of hip-hop, reggae, funk, and techno presents
him as the most unique talent to come out of England since Thom Yorke.
Original Pirate Material is a solid disc that will introduce the listener
to a brand new soundscape that’s almost too weird to copy, at least not
for six more months.
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Dan Grote is an iconoFAN contributor