Managing to stand strong after critics called Grime’s second wind a passing fad, Skepta has proved everyone wrong on his fourth LP, solidifying himself and the genre as a cornerstone of British music.
“We ain’t seen nuttin’ like this happen before. Who’s seen the country flip on its head like this, fam?” says fellow grime MC Chip, saying what we’ve all been thinking for months now: how the fuck did Skepta do this? Grime, a genre many thought had stagnated in the early 00’s, somehow started to dominate the charts and Shutdown was the catalyst to it all. Starting with a sample of newest member of Boy Better Know and little known rapper Drake, the track became the sound of the summer (sorry Limmy) and put the Tottenham born rapper on the radars of many.
Whilst listening to Konnichiwa, I find myself asking that same question. How is it that an album, seemingly full of tracks that have been around for at the very least a few months, manages to stand out as fresh, inventive and, most of all, memorable?
The best way to start describing this is, surprisingly, the beginning with an eponymously titled track which reeks of Kung Fu aura before kicking off in typical grime fashion, horns blaring before Skepta begins chatting about corrupted agendas, something that makes up a large chunk of Konnichiwa’s DNA. Whether it’s explicitly about the police on Crime Riddim, which packs a delightful retro game beat, or quips about David Cameron, it’s refreshing to see that Skepta can say something worth telling rather than relying solely on Grime easter eggs.
While there’s an aggressive attitude on a vast majority of these songs, it doesn’t mean that the BBK leader isn’t fond of being a little tender. Text Me Back displays this well and acts as a rather heartfelt finale though thankfully the instrumentals don’t lost any of the cold tinge that makes this album stand out. Think of it as a juxtaposing love letter to Dizzee Rascal’s I Lov U which may make up for the rather blatant shots fired at him on Lyrics (all is fair in love and Grime though).
What really makes Konnichiwa thrive though is its unrelenting intensity. The direction Skepta took on this LP impressed me to say the least with some songs like Ladies Hit Squad feeling like they’d be out of place if there were anywhere else other than helping to establish the firm foundations of this album. Whether or not you like the nature of some of these songs, what can be stated is that Skepta manages to take heed of his brother JME’s words and keeps his integrity while not being afraid to push the boundaries.
The few gripes this album has are ones that stop it from achieving true greatness with the running time being one of them, stopping some songs achieving their true potential by aborting them far sooner than they needed to be. Despite this, Skepta has managed to provide another monumental release into the Grime narrative: Stormzy may have told everyone to shut up but what we have here is a warm, albeit fierce, konnichiwa.