Original Pirate Material

Streets, The

album cover

The True Confessions of a London Slacker

This droll, self-aware debut follows the rather ordinary exploits of a British slacker who spends his nights drinking, carousing, playing video games, and pursuing all sorts of self-indulgences. Its songs are anti-anthems, odes celebrating those who aren't on the fast track aspiring to a better life. Their author, a young white MC and producer named Mike Skinner, comes across as the antithesis of the amped-up Beastie Boys, who shouted about how you've got to fight for your right to party. He's so perpetually wasted, he's lost the will to fight for anything.

Skinner's tales unfold over an unusual British beatbox style called "garage" (which later evolved into "grime")—terse rhythms that move at faster-than-hip-hop tempos, with very little adornment. The multitalented Skinner made most of the album himself, at home, in between work shifts at fast-food joints; his irreverent narratives (and occasional confessions) are delivered in a working-class accent, and are shot through with a sense of minimum-wage futility. Several tracks, including "Geezers Need Excitement," find Skinner developing whole theories of life out of conversations overheard on the bus; other songs, like "Same Old Thing," relegate the rapping to the sidelines, throwing the emphasis on the dance floor syncopations.

As a rapper, Skinner's nothing special—the draw is less his herculean delivery than the story he's telling, and the inventive sampled sounds he uses to tell it. Skinner admits as much on a statement of purpose called "Sharp Darts": "One day I hope to earn some hard royalties from a bit of sample robbery, hook burglary, noise thievery, or wholesale piracy." He's hardly a pirate. Skinner does here what all the hip-hop greats do: He transforms common slacker desires into strikingly universal screeds.

Genre: Hip-Hop
Released: 2002, Vice
Key Tracks: "Turn the Page," "Sharp Darts," "Same Old Thing," "Geezers Need Excitement"
Catalog Choice: A Grand Don't Come for Free
Next Stop: Dizzee Rascal: Boy in da Corner
After That: Lady Sovereign: Vertically Challenged
Book Pages: 751–752

Buy this Recording

Share this page:

site design: Juxtaprose