Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Day 18 | Konnichiwa x Skepta

Artist: Skepta
Album: Konnichiwa (2016)
"I'm not making music to try to break America; I'm just making my own music." 
-Skepta
Nigerian-British rapper and producer, Joseph Adenuga, better known as Skepta, has been hard-hitting in the UK music scene for over a decade and his mainstream popularity in the has grown exponential over the past few years, since he's been working alongside notable recording artists here in the U.S. for some time now. His long awaited fourth studio album, Konnichiwa, was pretty consistent with previous work, especially with Microphone Champion, and sort of a reclaim to his identity. Consistency isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does make it possible for a seasoned fan to expect more, because a lot of people want to see change and growth reflected in the music. For newer fans, however, this was an incredible "introduction" to who he is as an artist. Either way, he doesn't too much care about what people want to hear; his biggest concern is to create organically and in his first interview at Hot 97, a popular radio station based in New York, he made that very clear.

I love this record more for the beats than the lyrical content; I would've been completely satisfied if this was purely instrumental. There are subtle old school southern trap influences, but mostly a dub-step, electronic, hip-house drum and bass grime compilation, splashed with Caribbean dancehall that could very well bare to stand alone. In many areas on this record, it felt like the instruments drowned everything else. The verses aggressively bounced back and forth between braggadocios bars to conscious rap bars, going from gritty toughness to vulnerable intimacy in his delivery, yet the topics were focused and consistent. 

Although I have selected favorites yet, there are a few tracks that stand out to me. Firstly, I absolutely loved the inhale/exhale effect on the track Numbers ft. the brilliant, musical genius Pharrell Williams. On a good sound system, this song is a huge banger. The track Lyrics was an example of musical consistency, as it samples a line coined in a 2001 rap battle between Pay As U Go Cartel and Heartless Crew. Songs like Ladies Hit Squad and Text Me Back didn't come off as seductive as they tried to be. Shutdown, that was released over a year ago in the U.S., is somewhat of an ego anthem that reinforces the idea that he doesn't need name stamps and big labels for recognition, while Man paints himself as being the self-aware lonewolf type who keeps his circle small. In the balance, one is able to comprehend that he's a man who understands himself at both extremes.

Overall, I consider this to be a pretty solid and enjoyable album, that deserves multiple spins from the listener, and perhaps, maybe even for clarity. There's this dynamic to his music that no matter how familiar it sounds, will never get old, and I think that's what separates Skepta from a lot of artist out now. I just hope that he continues to make music that feels right and reflects his own truth at whatever stage of the pursuit of success he finds himself in.

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