Grime emerged from pirate radio stations in the UK in the early aughts. The earliest stars of grime were Dizzee Rascal and Wiley. Dizzee has caught a considerable amount of flack for his ventures into mainstream while Wiley has remained fairly true to his grime roots. This is exhibited on his latest album, 100% Publishing.
The main difference between grime and American hip hop is the beats. Grime is largely based around 2-step breakbeats which give the tracks a more aggressive feel. Because of the music, grime rappers generally seem a little more in your face than the average American emcee. This aggressiveness is shown in Wiley tracks like “Boom Boom Da Na.” The track has a manic off-kilter energy that is mimicked by its deranged carnival music synth line. Wiley’s vocals perfectly compliment the energy with his choppy flow.
Not every song on 100% Publishing is as grimy as “Boom Boom Da Na.” “Talk About Life” is an R&B-tinged hip hop track that sounds more like it was produced for Jay-Z or Common than the godfather of grime. While does the beat justice, the track feels out of place surrounded by more aggressive grime tunes.
That is kind of the mixed bag that Wiley delivers on 100% Publishing. His bread-and-butter is still clearly grime but he’s not beyond trying out other styles. With this album being released in the US, I do not blame him for trying a slightly more Americanized style but I hope this does not mark a shift in focus away from grime for him.