Review: Wiley's Album, "Godfather"
A Toast to Grime
The newly-released ‘Godfather’ doesn’t just focus on UK grime artist Wiley’s ascension, it toasts the rise of grime as a movement. Turning the attention away from his own success and directing it outwards, Wiley is more accommodating than ever before on the record. The rapper uses ‘Godfather’ to acknowledge grime’s newcomers and namedrop various established acts he respects.
‘Godfather’ boasts appearances from the likes of JME, Skepta, Lethal Bizzle, Ghetts, P Money, President T, Chip and several members of Roll Deep. In fact, only five tunes on ‘Godfather’ are guest-free, Wiley is even relegated to the hooks of certain tracks. It would’ve been great to hear a few more feature-less cuts on ‘Godfather’, especially if the album is indeed Wiley’s last (which is unlikely). On the other hand, ‘Godfather’ is consistent, there isn’t a dud tune on it, and the LP’s featured artists are responsible for many of its highlight moments.
Passing the Baton
Wiley can’t help but reiterate his revered position in music throughout ‘Godfather’. He’s still very much a rap force and impacts memorably alongside fellow Londoner Devlin on the mighty ‘Bring Them All / Holy Grime’. Lyrically though, there’s a sense that Wiley has already said everything he has to say. Nothing new is truly explored by the 38-year-old on ‘Godfather’.
For the most part, Wiley sticks to parading the characteristics of his ambitious personality, detailing time spent causing mischief on London’s streets and recounting episodes from his slow, but steady rise to stardom. In that sense, the emcee seems ready to pass his grime baton to the scene’s younger stars. The DIY opinions 2016 Mercury Prize winner Skepta vents at the beginning and end of ‘Speakerbox’ are more relevant and provoking than most of what Wiley raps about.
No stranger to radio play, Wiley knows how to exploit crossover appeal without destroying his credibility. He swiftly demonstrates this amid the catchy, rhyming earworms of ‘Back With A Banger’ and on ‘Name Brand’, which features rapper/entrepreneur J2K, alongside Boy Better Know’s JME and Frisco.
Although the album’s grime production is geared up, vigorous and present-day, some of its beats are purposely unpolished. They immediately take ‘Godfather’ full circle back to Wiley’s early days. Hearing Wiley perform with Roll Deep brethren Scratchy on the jarring, out-the-box ‘Bait Face’ is sweetly nostalgic.
Muddling Up "Joe Bloggs"
London duo Newham Generals and grime artist President T flaunt their OG status on ‘Joe Bloggs’. It’s rewarding to hear two of the UK’s most bizarre and impactful rappers, Newham General's D Double E and President T, muddle up ‘Joe Bloggs’ with their eccentricities. As D Double E recalls Hollywood actress Sharon Stone’s infamous ‘Basic Instinct’ interrogation scene, President T defies the tune’s rhythms to slur, “call me a president without the suite. Old school, old school. I don’t give a monkey’s - if I’m offbeat”.
Ruled by its direct charge, English rapper Ghetts injects his special brand of furiousity into ‘Bang’. The track’s buzzing bassy sounds, tense loops and punchy ad-libs refuse to be ignored. The long term appeal of ‘Bang’ and single ‘Can’t Go Wrong’ is questionable. Admittedly though, both tracks will inflict real damage at the right raves.
Exploring In-Relationship Turbulence
Skepta and north Londoner rapper Belly tackle their feelings and explore in-relationship turbulence on ‘U Were Always, Pt. 2’. Placed midway through the album’s fight talk and chest beating, ‘U Were Always. Pt. 2’ naturally stands out. Sampling Nineties US girl group SWV’s ‘Fine Time’, the cut’s sentimental tone has layers of breezy, melodic appeal. The rappers repeatedly attempt to defuse the track’s enamoured mood with offhand banter.
‘On This’ sees Wiley taking a back seat and letting guest emcees, Londoners Chip, Ice Kid and Little Dee hold the reins. Each contributing a different kind of energy, the trio of rappers stand out individually and legitimise the track. Despite Little Dee benefiting from his straightforward everyman appeal and Chip’s forever fresh energy, Ice Kid’s unhinged performance steals most of the limelight.
Wiley Pledges Allegiance to His "Laptop"
Wiley and London’s Lethal BIzzle clock in blistering performances on ‘My Direction’. The track faithfully recreates the eskibeat sound Wiley coined and pushed in the early Noughties. The boys waste no time with fluff or distractions, ‘My Direction’ feels very determined. Both emcees spit slack-free, razor-sharp bars over the tune’s choppy, cutthroat loops and minimal, steely beats. Backed by Roll Deep’s Breeze, on ‘Like It Or Not’ Wiley tell his critics that no matter what they think about him, they can’t change the fact he was around when grime music was being born.
Starting fittingly with the Macintosh startup chime, Wiley pays tribute to his Macbook Pro on ‘Laptop’, which features Roll Deep star Manga. The tune’s instrumental is playful, hyperactive and frantic. It’s never boring. During the cut’s midsection Wiley is heard pledging allegiance to his favourite gadget with the lines, “that’s my tool, that machine…Macbook Pro for ever, trust me”.