Wiley-Godfather: Album Review

Someone slap me next time I review an album 4 months late. Wanted to catch up on the Godfather of Grime because I’ve loved the latest from Stormzy and Skepta so much as of late.

Wiley is almost like an El-P type figure in the UK Grime scene—around 15 years into his career, he’s still an underground road warrior with fierce, uncompromising productions and a take-no-prisoners attitude.  On Godfather, he uplifts the likes of the more popularly known Skepta and Stormzy—spitting out the line “Stormzy’s a don who’s here to break barriers” on opener “Birds and Bars.”  Elsewhere he establishes a bit of a mission statement: “Let me go and enjoy what I created.”

The album is a testament to his career.  He’s truly the Godfather of a genre and he remains one of the best in the game.  Admittedly, there’s a sense of simply meeting expectations and he doesn’t necessarily change up his sound a whole lot across the 16 tracks, but Godfather presents Grime in its purest form and never drops in energy or spirit.

Sonically, Wiley is still singular.  Single “Speakerbox” hits relentlessly hard with hollow, bouncing electronics and a mammoth percussive edge both in the wall of drums and the speedy rap flows: “if you look into my face, gonna see a boss.”  For most of the project, this remains the standard, with even more of a massive sound coming through on “Can’t Go Wrong;” a particularly vicious snarl dominating “On This;” and a one of the best melodies on the album showing up on the tongue-in-cheek ode to his laptop.

Wiley also seems to bring the best out of his features; each one respects his position in the scene and tries to bring their best foot forward to match-up to his skill. On “Bring Them All/Holy Grime” he trades off verses with Devlin—another long-standing road warrior—discussing the state of the genre today.  Posse cut “Name Brand” follows with JME and Wiley combining forces for one of the best hooks on the whole project and Skepta shows up for the melancholy “U Were Always Pt. 2.”  Wiley doesn’t overdo it with the features and he always finds a way to keep his voice central, but his ability to pass the mic when he needs to is a highly important aspect of the success of the work.

His sense of humor also shines continuously. “I still can’t work out why you would cause a big scene in Nando’s” he wonders as he casually takes shots at his S.O.  “Bait Face” is full of quick-witted one-liners like “when I get off the plane I’m still flying” and “I hit the road everyday like a cyclist.” Perhaps my personal favorite lyric comes on the opener: “all I need is…some fast food fizzy drink and an uber account.”  Although he expresses anxiety over the lack of money in the record labels he used to rely on here and there, Wiley still uses humor to ease the impact of his vocal power.

The album is a bit monochromatic.  Again, these songs are essentially all hard-hitting bangers and Wiley doesn’t dabble in sounds outside of the traditional grime pocket of sound.  Still, his creativity is relentless and, as he describes, “London’s changed a bit but [he] can still hit the booth, start spraying, and give the crowd fire.”

-Donovan Burtan

7.5/10

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