Published May 10, 2016Though the current, dominant trend for album rollouts is to have them fall from the sky without warning, Skepta's Konnichiwa has been years in the making — it is, essentially, the capstone to his crucial career reboot.
Recognized as a formidable grime producer, DJ and MC upon founding his crew/label Boy Better Know in 2005, a shift towards radio-friendly sounds that the genre took in the late oughts did little to garner Skepta's work commercial or critical acclaim. Down but not out, he shed his mainstream pop leanings with the release of "That's Not Me" and "It Ain't Safe" in 2014. Following those with "Shutdown" last year, on top of recognition from North American hip-hop powerhouses in Drake and Kanye West, the interest in both Skepta and grime outside of the UK spiked.
Those aforementioned, career-changing singles are all included on Konnichiwa, still as urgent as ever, but shouldn't overshadow Skepta's further reflections here. "Lyrics," "Crime Riddim" and "Man" show him at his most convincing, taking aim at MC battle culture, police profiling and post-fame loyalty respectively, delivered with force no matter how vulnerable the subject matter or how jokey the punch lines might be ("My mum don't know your mum / Stop telling man you're my cousin.").
A break at the end of the career-profiling "Corn on the Curb" includes a recorded phone call between Skepta and fellow grime MC Chip, with the latter reassuring the former in his musical mission: "You're doing what you're supposed to do, bro. Cuh, we ain't seen nothing like this happen before. Who's seen the country flip on its head like this, fam?"
Moments like this don't just posit Konnichiwa as a triumph for the genre, but put Skepta firmly in the driver's seat of its recent resurgence, fuelled by a hunger and post-fame humility we can only hope won't waver or disappear. (Boy Better Know)