More than twenty years ago, the fate of UK garage was yet to be foreseen. The waning interest and increased police disruption meant that something had to be changed, remoulded perhaps. Then came Wiley with a culture-defining mission that is far from difficult to understand when you listen to his eleventh studio album, The Godfather. The dynamism it took to see the potential in a scene still unchartered is the reason why Wiley's latest sounds as though it could've been made in 2001 as well as 2017. Eskibeat is a grime institution in itself, but where Wiley perhaps doesn't receive enough plaudits is for his signature sound that never once felt stale. A behemoth such as Jay Z struggles to find his place in a world where Reasonable Doubt is a relic.
The jury's still out on whether Godfather is Wiley's magnum opus, but it's proof that in this game, idiosyncrasy comes through remaining true to one's sound—even if he did plan to cancel the album. Wiley's elusiveness has often had fans wondering what the man does with his time, but the artwork for the album tells all: like a scientist bringing his creations life, he's in his own lab perfecting the beast he helped create all those years ago. The star MC proclaims that he doesn't think he's had a masterpiece album yet. Maybe. That's fine. But each album he's released has marked a development, a growth, for grime.
Wiley's the overseer, facilitator and doer, never relenting to anyone and the tone of Godfather suggests so. Now, aged 37, Cowie isn't a man attempting to recreate a moment once lived but instead, this LP exemplifies refinement and precision. After numerous delays and false starts—twenty years since he first appeared on pirate radio—the elusive wordsmith has come to finally, and rightfully, accept the role he's been given in inspiring the lives of a generation looking for a place to shake a leg and dance.