The fact that Detective McNulty, aka old Etonian Dominic West, guests on the forthcoming Eminem album (not rapping, sadly, just lending his plummy non-Baltimore voice to a funny-as-kidney stones skit – which is nonetheless still the highlight of the album), points up a curious fact about ‘The Wire’: many of its cast members harbour musical ambitions.
You could assemble a band out of all the ‘Wire’ actors who are also musicians. Granted, it would be quite a shit band, made up of almost exclusively of below-par rappers, like So Solid Crew without the knife crime, but you could do it.
Hackney-based Idris ‘Stringer Bell’ Elba, when he’s not acting in gritty, unflinching urban dramas like, er, ‘The Inspector Lynley Mysteries’, produces shmoove R&B under the name DJ Driis. He released an EP, ‘Big Man’, in 2006, and has more music on the way. It’s not very convincing, though – a bit try-hard, all auto-tuned vocals and studio gimmicks:
Still, at least it’s more listenable than Lance ‘Lieutenant Daniels’ Reddick, who specialises in a peculiarly soporific brand of syrupy, George Benson-style guitar-jazz. The Myspace photo of him wearing a cream zip-up cardigan gives an insight into the level of smugness involved, while tracks such as ‘Woman In Black’ are limp vanity efforts for which the term ‘self-released’ could have been invented.
Less embarrassing, if not much more palatable, is the grindingly formulaic, booty-worshiping hipppety-hop peddled by Tray Chaney, aka Malik ‘Poot’ Carr, one of the few drug-dealers to appear in every season of the show. Chaney’s debut album is due for release later this year. So far the only track to emerge is ‘Dilemma’, featuring Jazz from Dru Hill on guest vocals:
A number of lesser ‘Wire’ actors have also made vague noises about launching music careers. Tristan Wilds, who plays schoolkid-turned-contract killer Michael Lee in seasons four and five, looks likely to get a record deal – he has the contacts, having appeared in Jay-Z’s ‘Roc Boy’ video.
Lee’s fictional pal Namond Brice, played by Julio McCullum, has his own rapping ambitions, having got a foot in the door thanks to a cameo in a Ludacris video. Still another season four minor player, Duquan ‘Dukie’ Weems, is played by Jermaine Crawford, who according to Wikipedia “has won many singing competitions around Baltimore and Maryland”. So expect to see him murdering an Aerosmith ballad on ‘American Idol’ any day now.
Then of course there’s Melvin ‘Cheese’ Wagstaff, played by Method Man, who of course is a proper rapper and therefore the only person connected with ‘The Wire’ who has produced any music that’s remotely worthy of a re-up. The Wu-Tang Clan-ster’s second collaborative album with Redman, ‘Blackout! 2’ is due out at the end of May – but let’s be honest, it’s not likely to eclipse ‘You’re All I Need To Get By’, his 1995 duet with Mary J. Blige – a staggering masterpiece, possessed by a clammy, furtive, spooked atmosphere that upends Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s original to mesmerising effect.
But which other musical side-projects would you like to see from ‘Wire’ luminaries? Bubbles as a snotty garage-punk shouter? Omar as a tweecore indie balladeer? Proposition Joe as a Frankmusic-style laptop troubadour..?