News 12 May 2016
Author: Sam

5 ways Skepta’s ‘Konnichiwa’ set the new standard for Grime albums

Author Sam
12 May 2016

Words: @sjriptweets

Skepta used to call himself the King of Grime. He doesn’t anymore, and he shouldn’t. Because he is bigger than a genre – he now transcends UK culture.

Skepta has taken the UK on his back and, alongside a few others, transformed it’s scene. Grime used to be hailed on the roads, now it is hailed in broadsheet newspapers; it used to get love in pockets of the UK, now there’s global love; it used to be spoken about in the mainstream as the alternative, little British brother of rap, now it is in Vogue and discussed with excitement.

‘Konnichiwa’ was Skepta’s first release since that transformation began, and so the pressure was on to capitalise on the moment.

He did not disappoint.

Representing a genre that has been criticised for its failure to produce outstanding albums, here are five ways that ‘Konnichiwa’ set the new default of how to do a major Grime release. MCs take note.

1. It is a cohesive, non-compromising project

One element that differentiates ‘Konnichiwa’ is its cohesion as a project. Just take the artwork – the red in the middle of a white background, to represent the Japanese influence, the customised stamp with an inverted 1st on it, to represent the alternative UK that Skepta stands for.

Furthermore, Skepta took on the majority of production duty himself, ensuring a level of sonic consistency. Grime’s distinctive drum patterns, minor keys and heavy bass are present throughout, while obvious pop hooks are absent from the project. On top of that, the Japanese motif permeates the music on “Konnichiwa”, “That’s Not Me” and “Crime Riddim”. Much like the artwork and marketing for the album (that Skepta stamp got slapped all over the joint), the project itself shows a level of thought that has been lacking in many previous grime releases. Crucially, it feels like a rounded album in a way that no grime project since ‘Boy in Da Corner’ has.

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2. It transcends British boundaries

Next, ‘Konnichiwa’ is being received outside of the realms that grime has traditionally reached. Skepta’s brand is such that he can launch an album at a Boiler Room in Japan, then hit Toronto for a sell-out show, before coming back to perform the project in the UK – all while getting spins on the Triple J radio station in Australia. The album is being recognised in the mainstream Hip-Hop press in the US and around the world, as well as on UK sites. ‘Konnichiwa’ has grasped the attention of listeners of all-types from all over the globe, and opened up new avenues for other UK artists to utilise. Skepta has proved that you can keep it British, and be loved for it globally.

Photo by @mrjonasleon Tokyo, 2016.

A photo posted by SKEPTA (@skeptagram) on

3. It represents unity amongst UK artists

While the grime scene is known for its clashes, one of the elements that has been pivotal to the recent growth of the genre has been the sense of fellowship amongst artists. This is prevalent on ‘Konnichiwa’. The album features Novelist, Wiley, D Double E, JME, Shorty, Jammer and Frisco, showing that Team UK is very much in the building. On “Corn on the Curb” Skepta heralds Stormzy as a ‘king’, while at the end of the track we hear Chip consoling Skeppy mid-crisis, saying ‘You’re doing what you’re supposed to do, bro.’ Over the project, you get the sense of a scene in which everyone is out there championing for each other. Long may that continue.

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4. The American features are not a compromise..

Back to back, tracks 5, 6 and 7 all feature US artists – Young Lord on “It Ain’t Safe”, A$AP Nast on “Ladies Hit Squad” and Pharrell on “Numbers”. In the past, some UK artists have compromised on their sound when collaborating with rap artists and producers. Not here though. The collaborations work, and fit the global influences of the album. They are not awkwardly used for the purpose of cracking a new market, but for the betterment of tracks – Young Lord’s energy on the hook of “It Ain’t Safe” is one of ‘Konnichiwa’s’ stand-out moments. Similarly, Pharrell’s production on “Numbers” is tailored to the project, and therefore doesn’t sound out of place. The collaborations sound organic, which, again, sets a new default for UK artists looking for the transatlantic link up.

5 … but the album is proudly British.

Most importantly, the album stays true to what Skepta and grime really is. Skeppy has spoken previously about coming back to his roots as an artist on ‘Blacklisted’, a shift he articulated exceptionally on “That’s Not Me”. This album is the reflection of an artist who is now self-assured in his own musical identity.

The sound is true to grime. The slogans and flows that made Skepta are ever-present. The clashes that birthed the scene are used as the bedrock for “Lyrics”. The songs and skits feature London people talking in London accents about London stuff. This is an album that is proud to be what it is. Bold, Black, and British.

On one skit, an American , mid-gaming beef, asks: ’Where you from?’

The UK yout replies, proudly: ‘London, you know about us bro.’

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And that, in a nutshell, kinda summarizes why ‘Konnichiwa’ is a game changer for the UK scene. It is a project that shows grime major releases can have their own identity and be sonically cohesive, while remaining accessible. Crucially, it proves that a grime album can be successful in the mainstream without having to compromise for it.

If other artists can follow-up like they’re supposed to (we see you Stormz), this could be the catalyst that takes the art of the grime album to new, monumental heights.