I know there is probably some confusion going on right now with the long title, who exactly Skepta is, Grime Music or why myself and plenty others more knowledable about his music are referring to him as the chosen one.
Before I get into more details I want to share an experience in summer 2015 on a trip to Jamaica. While I was there I ran into a 2nd generation Nigerian–British young lady who mentioned that her mother was born in the United Kingdom. She also was born in the United Kingdom. This made sense to me immediately because Nigerians have been back and forth between the United Kingdom and their home country for many decades even prior to independence. Grime music is a very prominent part of UK subculture primarily followed by the indigenous blacks and those who have migrated to the region over the years from all over the world. I don’t want to reduce the music to just black music, because after attending a Grime party in the UK, I saw all races enjoying and participating in Grime “culture”. As such it is not that surprising that a Nigerian would rise to the top of the genre and be regarded as the chosen one to bring it to mainstream consciousness.
Skepta was born in September 19, 1982 as Joseph Junior Adenuga and he is an MC, rapper and Grime artist of Nigerian descent. He has released several records over the last decade independently. His debut record was titled Greatest Hits in 2007, Microphone Champion in 2009 and his third solo album titled Doin’ it Again was released in 2011. On May 6, 2016, he released his most recent album titled KONNICHIWA.
KONNICHIWA was released under his label Boy Better Know and was received with critical acclaim and became Grime’s highest charting album, peaking at Number 2 on the UK music charts. The album begins with the self title of the album KONNICHIWA and immediately, you can feel the heavy bass and fast drums pierce through the songs with Skepta matching the production with his punchy lyrics. The first half of the album follows this very pattern, which quickly ushers any new listeners, such as myself to learn about Grime production, flow and rhythms without being made to feel like an outsider to the genre.
As the album moves to the middle tracks, we see that Skepta incorporates an American down south sound ushered in by pioneers such as UGK. During this middle portion of the album, the production is slowed down considerably and the southern sound transitions and gives the album an unexpected twist that listeners probably did not expect. I am not sure what the purpose of incorporating the sound into a “Grime” album, but if I had to speculate I think it was to make it more palatable for the American listeners who are yet to fully embrace Grime music as a force in the north American music landscape. We get features from ASAP Nast and also production from the great Pharell Williams of the Neptunes sound.
As the latter part of the album kicks in, Skepta brings the audience members back to where we started which is the Grime sound that began the album. One of the songs that stood out is “Shutdown” which is the lead single off the album. I remember hearing this track in a basement jam in Toronto and the crowd being a bit more eclectic was bouncing up and down to the track. I started to realize that the genre was really picking up steam within the Toronto music and party scene.
Skepta has been making waves for many years prior to the release of this record but there is no doubt this is the most anticipated album from the Grime genre. Over the past few years he has seen significant shoutouts from artists like Drake, while also collaborating with the most recognized Afropop artist Wizkid. Skepta’s influence has also seen him collaborate with Nike to release a new sneaker and one of the biggest highlights of his career and Grime artists in general was seeing them on stage with Kanye West at British Music Awards performing “All Day”.
Skepta is not a new artist but he is definitely going to start getting the North American attention very shortly as he continues to push his new album KONNICHIWA and collaborating with more prominent North American artists that believe in the Grime sound.