Album Review: Wiley – Snakes And Ladders

Grime has had big moments over the summer. Three charting singles, MOBO’s recognition of grime as its own separate genre and now Wiley’s new album Snakes And Ladders. In the early days grime was unrelenting, songs were released at a staggering pace with little regard for promotion or perception in the media. In short grime is the only punk thing to happen since punk. Which partly explains why grime failed to gain any real mainstream attention and saw many genuinely talented grime artists choosing to start making chart music or to go back to the grind, much to the dismay of their fans.

This theme of nostalgia for those early days and the trouble faced by the movement is a theme Wiley explores throughout this album, through both classic Eskiboy production and in his lyrics.

Though this is not to say that the Godfather of Grime hasn’t evolved. A lot has happened in rap since 2009’s troubled See Clear Now, and it’s clear that Wiley has taken it all in. Trap-ish hi hats litter the beats, features from Cam’ron and Problem being a rare moment of connection between UK and US rap, and the MC Ride-esque hook on Drive By all show that Wiley has moved on from the adolescence he found on rooftops and in basements.

The album does still have its weaker moments, for example one of the later tracks What’s on ya Mind? is a little awkward. The instrumental is a lot calmer than the rest of the album, and would find a better home on a yoga CD. It’s not that grime can’t do softer songs, Astroid Boys’ Sticky is a great example of this, it’s just that the combination of Wiley’s flow and this beat feels almost embarrassing to listen to. Despite this Snakes and Ladders is a very important album and definitely worth of your time. The spirit of the early days is there but at 35 Wiley’s maturity is shining through.

Snakes And Ladders is out now via Big Dada. 

Words: Matthew Burdon

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