Welcome to Wiley Week, a time where we reflect on the impact the godfather has had on grime and the British pop music landscape ever since he began MCing on jungle twenty years ago. A super complex character, Richard Cowie has given both the underground and mainstream music that truly transcends—​and pop culture moments that will live on forever. In a bid for him to reconsider retiring after his latest album, The Godfather, here's hoping our efforts this week truly hits home.


First up, we don’t believe Wiley is retiring—not for one second. Oh, he wants to; the Bow E3 legend has been threatening to leave music in a huff for about 10 years now, but leaving the music game is just not in him. He can move to Cyprus and soak up the sun all he wants, but sooner or later, he’ll catch wind of an emcee chatting breeze on radio or YouTube and that’ll ignite the fire all over again. If you think Wiley’s story ends with a fantastic, well-constructed album like The Godfather, you haven’t been following his story: this is a man who has made a career out of being a walking contradiction, and that’s how he’s changed the course of British music countless times over 20 years.

Go back to 1997 when he was just a youth spitting on pirate radio and you can already hear the hunger, but also the raw ingredients that Wiley would use to Frankenstein grime together. At a time when D&B was rapidly becoming the domain of tech-geeks, Wiley’s shellings were rude—carrying the ragga-jungle flame on pirates because he knew it was simply the best music in the world, but also because it was literally in his DNA (his father was famously involved in reggae). Wiley never had a chance to make a real splash in jungle, but while that genre floundered, he kept its forward-thinking spirit and its roughneck heritage vital, carrying it with him into UK garage. In hindsight, grime looks inevitable, but in 2001 it was simply inconceivable. A quick scan of the year’s dominant crewsHeartless, So Solid, Pay As U Goshowcases 2-step at its most flashy and imperial.

Hits like “​Champagne Dance”​ topped the charts with a mix of London rhythm-science and US rap bling, but when fans tired (and the Met Police targeted UKG raves), most emcees floundered and the scene seemed as good as dead. Thank your lucky stars Wiley was there to bring it back to life. Not only did Cowie tear the sound inside outsubstituting swing, warmth and sexiness for rigidity, frostiness and aggression—but he provided a whole new avenue for UK emcees which, over the years, has launched many successful careers.