Skepta’s brand new, long-anticipated album ‘Konnichiwa’ is imminent, scheduled to drop this week. But the Tottenham MC and friend of Drake already has plenty of killer tracks – here are five of the best.
Look, we’re not too cool to start with ‘Shutdown’, okay? This 2015 release was arguably the moment that made Skepta. Paying tribute to Drake with a sample from the 6 God’s Vine account (“Truss me daddy!“), this menacing, minimalist track sees Skepta assures us of his superiority over his rivals: “Ring ring, pussy, it’s shutdown / Fashion week and it’s shutdown / Went to the show, sitting in the front row in a black tracksuit and it’s shutdown“. Skepta doesn’t even have to get dressed up and he still looks better than you. If you missed his Jools Holland performance of the song, please correct this immediately – it was one the greatest appearances on the show in recent years.
That’s Not Me
Skepta’s modus operandi in one song. Having put aside the bling and braggadocio of rap cliche, he gets back to basics with a repetitive, synth-driven beat and a vow to keep it real: “Act like a wasteman, that’s not me… Yeah, I used to wear Gucci, put it all in the bin ’cause that’s not me / I used to look like you but dressing like a mess nah that’s not me.” Brother JME’s deliberately over-enunciated diction provides an almost counterpoint to Skepta’s ferocious bark.
The Tottenham don’s 2012 mixtape ‘Blacklisted’ features no song titles, an indication of its sombre tone and no bullshit approach to grime. Eerie piano notes tinkle throughout this reflective track, as Skepta reflects on his own “underdog psychosis” – a favourite phrase of his – and the “streets of rage” from which he’s emerged. “Statistics say that I should be dead or in jail but shit ain’t the way it’s mean to me,” he raps, reminding us of how far he’s come.
Too Many Man
Some Skepta tracks address class warfare, racial tension, urban decay and ruthless ambition. Some are about the moment it occurs to you that the party you’re at is something of a sausage party. This is a roll-call of talent from Skepta’s label/collective Boy Better Know – including JME, Frisco and Wiley – and is taken from his 2007 debut album ‘Microphone Champion’. So, Skepta’s modus operandi includes keeping it real and balancing the women/not women ratio in the club. Good to know.
Skepta’s latest release, this terse, paranoid track will appear on the upcoming ‘Konnichiwa’. “I don’t know why man’s calling me fam all of a sudden,” Skepta muses in the opening line, “like, hmm, your mum don’t know my mum, stop telling man you’re my cousin.” It’s lonely at the top. Where earlier tracks dealt with ambition and the struggle for recognition, ‘Man’ explores the fall-out of being one of the hottest acts in the UK, a title Skepta should get used to.