Kyle Ellison has the cheat code swag
Reliability isn’t a quality often attributed to Richard Cowie, but over the right grime beat there are few if any more bankable. Okay, so Wiley’s attendance sheet has more than a few gaps and his brilliance is never likely to be captured on a record you can buy in Urban Outfitters, but the best things in life rarely come neatly wrapped. Trying to get a grasp on grime’s godfather is like catching fire, and while labels big and small will keep trying to package a Wiley Meal Deal to sell to the masses, let him assemble his own lunch and he’ll feed the 5,000.
Now on their fourth attempt at striking gold in E3, Big Dada will release Wiley’s Snakes and Ladders sometime in 2014 – that’s providing it doesn’t end up in a zip file first and posted on Twitter. While the label’s more recent Wiley releases 100% Publishing and Evolve or be Extinct were decent showcases for his creativity, they both danceed around grime tropes without ever fully submitting to the dance. He flowed flawlessly over ‘Numbers in Action’ and ‘I Just Woke Up’, but the clever, percussive beats he crafted didn’t have the right energy to impact in clubs. The wise man and his words were to be applauded and appreciated, while DJs drew for ‘It’s Wiley’ or any one of its remixes.
Latest single ‘On a Level’ is a different story, marking easily the grimiest single in his last three ‘returns’ to grime – as if he ever really left. Skepta’s beat hits that sweet spot between aggro aesthetics and playful bounce, and Wiley takes to it like the hungriest pigeon pecking at a Gregg’s sausage roll. His voice rolls from bar to bar as if following a single thought, and yet the subject matter ranges from swimming with crabs to the importance of living within your means. He’s also harking back to sidewinder sets and piggy in the middle, his outlook grounded and self-aware despite bounding around the rent-a-mansion in three different outfits.
In London, the range and number of grime events you can attend is slowly on the rise, but there are still 10 hyped-up producers to each MC. Most of the guys worth caring about are hanging off staircases in the video for ‘On a Level’ – and most of those guys have been there since the beginning. Somebody like 17-year-old Novelist sticks out here like the toes peeping out from Wiley’s sandals, highlighting just how few fresh faces emerge in this scene and how even fewer become integrated. New-ish nights like Jamz and Boxed could eventually prove crucial spaces for road testing new talent, but in the meantime Wiley and the rest of grime’s old guard still hold it down.