Snakes & Ladders
With many grime producers exploring the more melodic side of the genre, it seemed that was how grime had to be for it to fit the album format—yet, on Wiley's new Snakes & Ladders LP, he shows us there's another way. And that brings us to the next strength of this album: the skilled mic man has finally managed to create catchy tunes that don't sound like that song about watches.
The vibe that permeates throughout is darker than you may have come to expect from the Wiley Kat. Sure, there are bangers and club tracks ("On A Level" being the clear star), but here we see him delving deeper within himself for a stronger narrative that goes beyond self-aggrandising. The album's not without a healthy dose of boasting, but it's a different kind of boasting. "Badman", for example, shouts from the rooftops his lyrical prowess. In true Wiley style, he manages to make this super fun and super charming.
Though the album is definitely one of his more fluid efforts, it's not infallible. "Skylarking" and "Busy" drift into autopilot mode with the standard boastfulness that's devoid of the charm of his finer moments. And while those tracks lack the ambition Wiley is known for, "Grew Up In" (which features Stormzy and Solo 45) goes the other way, attempting too much, so much so that the lyrics struggle to stand and the whole thing becomes crowded and confused. Not only that, but his attempt to blend grime and trap simply falls flat.
Despite some blips, Snakes & Ladders is a respectable effort that aims to push vocal grime forward at a time when it's taken a backseat to its instrumental counterpart—and that, in itself, is commendable.