Wearing My Rolex

If you think pressing up a few CD-Rs of your music and selling them to your mates makes you a DIY pop star, run your eyes over the resumé of Richard ‘Wiley’ Cowie. Holed up in a series of self-built studios in his home turf of east London since the early noughties, Wiley has fired out a seemingly endless stream of white labels, 12-inches and mixtapes that all but defined the chilly stutter of grime (or, as Wiley would have it, “Eskibeat”). Two albums – 2004’s ‘Treddin On Thin Ice’ and last year’s ‘Playtime Is Over’ – threatened to make Wiley a household name. But every time his career has reached the lip of the mainstream, it’s like he’s stalled, as if unsure whether to toss away his autonomy and become a pop star. Until now. ‘Wearing My Rolex’ is the sort of song that makes you a star whether you like it or not.

‘…Rolex’ debuts a new look for Wiley. Gone is the lean, hungry, street warrior, replaced by a happy-go-lucky grime playboy: he is, in short, chasing skirt. Produced by Eskibeat newcomer Bless Beats, the track itself is a neon-coloured house beat wrapped up in bendy synths and pneumatic bass – a world away from grime’s snappy aggressiveness. It’s relaxed in a way that grime’s not: the sound of success, rather than of struggle. But Wiley, you feel, couldn’t echo the lazy materialism of American hip-hop even if he tried. Sure, he’s flashing his watch, sipping his champagne – but here’s the thing: he’ll give it up in an instant for the next fragrant young honey who makes him go weak at the knees. Amusingly, it’s already been set to a video of Paul McCartney and Heather Mills on YouTube, while The Sun reports Wiley didn’t appear in the video because it featured girls dressed as foxes, and he’s scared of them… hmm. Let the mainstream celebrate their new chart darling, then. But don’t forget, this acclaim is long deserved.