—review by Jesse Wiles
I haven’t been this excited about hip-hop since Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III dropped in 2008. There’s something intoxicating about grime (UK hip-hop)—the accents, the upbeat production and the brash, in your face bars. Konnichiwa and grime have a chip on their shoulder and it’s about time they were given respect.
Skepta’s Konnichiwa is a perfect segue into the American market for the sub genre which has been making waves stateside as of late. Thanks in part to Drake, who signed with Skepta’s Boy Betta Know (BBK) record label earlier this year and has shown love to the genre for a few years now.
Skepta has the elusiveness of Jay Electronica. The album was under construction for five years and many wondered if we’d ever get the final version. Two of the albums most explosive songs “That’s Not Me” and “Shutdown” were released a collective three years before the album finally dropped. “That’s Not Me” in 2014 and “Shutdown” in 2015. When I saw these singles had made the final cut for the album I was a little worried. Both had received a lot press and were played extensively throughout the past three years. Thankfully, I was wrong. Konnichiwa delivered a plethora of new sounds that completely distract the listener from realizing they’re listening to “Shutdown” for the thousandth time.
For a little over forty minutes Skepta flexes his muscles over an array of absolutely vicious beats. The album only features a few artists and most of them are from the UK. The only exceptions are ASAP Nast and Pharrell Williams. To the dismay of many, Drake didn’t end up on the album. Probably a strategic move from the rapper and his label. No Drake meant that Skepta was the prominent voice on every song, creating an album that was strictly his. ASAP Nast sings a lackadaisical hook on the smooth, seductive track “Ladies Hit Squad,” which begs for a remix featuring Drake. The feature that took me by surprise was Pharrell on “Numbers.” Not only does the veteran spit the song’s hook, but he’s also responsible for production on the track. The beat is classic Pharrell, unorthodox and otherworldly sounding, nothing like what you’re used to Skepta rhyming over. The end result is a certified banger that displays how compatible American hip-hop and grime can be.
This is basically the complete opposite of Drake’s album. Where the Canadian had 20 songs that flowed seamlessly, Skepta has 12 singles that can be played in any order and in any setting. Konnichiwa is a win for Skepta. He speaks for an entire culture and genre on this album. Grime is up next and you better listen.
Best songs: “It Ain’t Safe,” “Shutdown,” “Numbers,” “Corn on the Curb” and “Ladies Hit Squad.”