Artist: The Streets

Label: 679 Recordings

Released: March 2002

Genre: British Garage/Hip-Hop

1. Turn the page
2. Has it come to this?
3. Let’s push things forward
4. Sharp darts
5. Geezers need excitement
6. It’s too late
7. Too much brandy
8. Don’t mug yourself
9. Who got the funk?
10. The irony of it all
11. Weak become heroes
12. Who dares wins
13. Stay positive

Those are the objective facts. Now the vaguely subjective details:

Massively hyped album by English group The Streets (which basically means ‘by Mike Skinner’). Of course, just because it’s massively hyped does not mean that it will be particularly good, or particularly bad. It is, however, definitely different.

Until now, the British hip hop scene has spent most of its time imitating its American equivalent. Which is a shame, since there’s no point in pretending to be American when you’re not. It’s not convincing. The break started a while ago, with the advent of trip-hop and the Bristol scene, and now, with thanks to rappers such as Mark B. and Blade (and others), British rap is once again doing something new and original.

So what does the album sound like? Well, the music is good, if not particularly original, with heavy garage influences, although it manages to avoid becoming too cliché: ‘we don’t do anthems – leave that to the Artful Dodger’.

The real difference with The Streets, and the reason that the British music press is calling this ‘the first essential album of 2002’, comes with the lyrics. Firstly, they’re sung/spoken/rapped by a white guy from Birmingham who spends a lot of time in London. And that’s exactly what it sounds like: ‘round here we call ‘em birds, not bitches’.

Second, the subject matter is incredibly ordinary (and I don’t mean that as a criticism). This album isn’t about big pimpin’, pulling out a glock and poppin’ some caps in some asses. It’s about spending a day sat in your flat stoned out your mind, then going down the pub, having a few pints, getting to the club, trying to pull a bird, and then getting in a fight on the way home. And, love it or hate it, that pretty much sums up suburban life for a huge number of young English people.

Each song presents a snapshot of Brummie and Brixton life (except perhaps for the weak single Turn the page) – Too much brandy chronicles a weekend bender in Amsterdam, The Irony of it all pits a lager-swilling thug against a pretentious dope-smoking student, with hilarious consequences, and Weak become heroes waxes lyrical about Skinner’s first E, ending with salutes to Rampling and Oakenfold.

Basically, if you’re British and you want to hear something new, that is unashamed of its heritage, you could do a lot worse than checking out this album. And if you’re not British, but curious about life on the little island, this album should be pretty enlightening. Although you may need a native speaker to translate some of the more obscure references...

‘…got to go and see a man about a dog…’

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