Featured CD Review

By Nate Buchik
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, June 9, 2004

The Streets: A Grand Don't Come For Free

White British rapper Mike Skinner, aka The Streets, isn't very good. At least not technically speaking.

He's slow, not the least bit ferocious, and doesn't have a grip of bitches and hos following him around on every track to let him know he's phat.

And yet, he's awesome. An appealing everyman who raps about day-to-day life (bad cell phone reception is a recurring theme), Skinner uses his lethargic delivery and unique rhymes in this concept album to tell the story of looking for a lost 1,000 pounds.

Some rappers spend that much on a week's supply of Cristal, but Skinner goes on a grand adventure to find his missing sum. On this trip, he falls for a girl at a bar, criticizes his spliff-smoking lifestyle and takes back a rented DVD.

While there's not enough tits and 40's to expect anything Skinner does to wind up on MTV with pimps like Twista and D12, it's refreshing to listen to a rapper who shows himself for who he is, even if that person is an insecure stoner.

The 11 tracks are consistently funny, catchy and full of different styles and beats. The first single, "Fit But You Know It," is a fast garage rock number, while "Could Well Be In" is set to a simple beat that perfectly accentuates the love at first sight ballad. Other times, Skinner's tracks feel like electronica. This diversity makes for a more interesting listen, and helps as the story drags a bit in the second half.

You could, of course, criticize the album for not meaning much. It's true that nothing here is life-altering. Skinner doesn't take on Bush or Blair. The album does not lyrically deal with the world, but only his small space in it. And we don't need another Atmosphere, a mildly intelligent rapper who takes on political and social issues. Skinner raps about what he knows, and there's nothing wrong with that.

An occasional inner thought, rather than a detailed description of events would help, however. Most of his rhymes tell the story rather than reflect on it, like this ditty about going to an ATM. "Get there the queue's outrageous, ladies taking ages / At last my turn comes, press the 50 squid button / Insufficient funds"

Skinner, who has often been compared to Eminem (because they're both white I guess), has created something unique, as he did with his debut album, "Original Pirate Material." The trivial topics, the internal rhymes and the diverse beats make for an interesting concoction that might not make sense on paper, but does in your stereo.