My friends, I forewarn you that I compose this review in a caffeine-induced stupor, so I petition you for forgiveness and understanding for its dodginess and/or incoherence. I work in a coffee shop, you see, and in a moment of sheer boredom, I and a fellow coworker decided to engage in a friendly match of espresso shots. Now, to the uninitiated, 10 shots may not seem like many, but I assure you otherwise. I feebly construct this review with hands trembling, stomach churning, and head swirling. I swear I must have hit the Backspace key about 100 times already. My friends, no one wins in espresso shots. I also forewarn you that this review is delivered from a very American viewpoint. If you’re British, this review will most likely make little sense to you. If you’re a sheltered American boy like myself (and I ‘m sure that most of you are), you, hopefully, will be able to understand my explanations.
For the benefit of those with short attention spans, I will now break this review into four main parts: 1) The obligatory introductory anecdote, 2) A justification of why this review is on this site, 3) Some information on The Streets and their music, and 4) a short conclusion. Let us begin.
On the ride home from work, I was enjoying my most recent music purchase, a band I had just recently learned of, The Streets. In what can only be described as an epiphany, my mind instantly began constructing a review, and also justifying why it belongs on a punk site. Now, anyone who knows anything about The Streets knows that they are NOT punk rock. Not by a longshot. It defies pigeonholing, but if I must pigeonhole, I will pigeonhole it as British hip-hop. It could also be called British rap, I suppose. Most accurately, probably somewhere snugly in between those two categorizations. I sense the punker-than-thou’s beginning to open their punk rock mouths in protest. I hereby slap them shut and exhort all the would-be naysayers to either keep quiet or click “Back.” “Back” is a button typically found in the upper-left hand corner of your browser window. “Back” utilizes the flexibility of the Internet by allowing you to return to the previous page. If you are considering objecting to the validity of this review, I urge you to employ the use of “Back.”
Now that the punk rock mouths have been collectively shut, I will humor you all by explaining just why I feel this review can coexist with other, more punk-oriented reviews. Aurally, British rap and punk rock are worlds apart. But what I feel ties The Streets to the punk community and the classic punk mentality is the brutal honesty and politically- and socially-conscious lyrics. The Streets have been likened to the Sex Pistols, and in regards to their lyrics and straightforward delivery, I wholeheartedly agree. Also, the idea of British rap is something that almost all open-minded American listeners should get a kick out of. Hearing every word perfectly enunciated with a thick British accent is a refreshing change to the rap/hip-hop we’re probably used to hearing. It will most likely evoke a few titters and giggles, but underneath the initial awkwardness lies depth and gritty truth. I also justify this review by directing your attention to the Jurassic 5 review recently posted, which is undoubtedly even further from “punk” than The Streets are.
The Streets consist basically of 22-year-old Mike Skinner, who is all too familiar with the harsh realities of English street life. His lyrics are presented with a calm, collected vocal delivery, in Mike’s funny little British voice and through his funny little British teeth. Whether his style can actually be called “rapping” is debatable, but for lack of a better term, I will call it rapping. Sorry if that offends. I am currently at a bit of a loss for how to adequately describe his colorful lyrical style (attribute that to the caffeine, I suppose), but they are undoubtedly the sharpest, wittiest lyrics I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. But they are, at the same time, very serious, dealing with life on the streets and some of the vices and pressures associated with it, but emphasizing a broader message throughout, that of staying positive even in the toughest of circumstances. Mike Skinner is a creative genius, that much is certain. His words are, as previously mentioned, delivered with typical British accuracy and clarity, and his vocabulary is sophisticated and intelligent. Example, from track 3, Let’s Push Things Forward: “As we progress to the checkpoint, I wholeheartedly agree with your viewpoint. But this ain't your typical garage joint. I make points which hold significance.” Imagine those lyrics being rapped. By a little guy with a British accent. With incredibly catchy and hypnotic beats in the background. It’s irresistible. And these accolades are coming from a kid who absolutely despises rap (I’m referring to myself now). That also happens to be one of the standout tracks, along with track 11, The Irony Of It All – a brilliant point-counterpoint “conversation” between a “street thug” and a peaceful citizen. This fantastically executed track is both thought provoking and hilarious. “Why you cheeky little swine - come here, I’m gonna batter you.” (I love the British.) If you intend to download any of these songs to get a taste of The Streets, I recommend this one above all others. (Not that I condone downloading music… of course not.)
Now, maybe my intense adoration of this record comes primarily from the novelty of the concept itself – I’ve never heard British rap before, though I know it exists. It has to. Rap is a plague, unhindered by political boundaries (Just my opinion of course). But this is so much different from anything this sheltered American boy has ever heard. I love the personality and flavor each song has, and I absolutely love the sharp and creative lyrics. It sure beats hearing about bitches and bling-bling. Forgive me if “bling-bling” doesn’t work in that context, but I’ve no idea what it means. I suspect you don’t either. If you’re looking for something very new and very different, and are a fan of intelligent lyrics, then I don’t really know how you could go wrong with this one. Even the adamantly anti-rap (me included) might like this. Even if they don’t, the ingenuity and sincerity can’t be denied. Do yourself a favor and give this one a chance.