In keeping with the spooky season, grime star Skepta released a surprise six-track EP last night (October 30) aptly titled Vicious—and although "No Security" and "Worst" were both released last Halloween, Joseph Adenuga went one better and dropped a mini project this year. It's the latest body of work since 2016's Konnichiwa—which was an unveiling of transatlantic Skepta—and at this point in his career, it very much feels as though Vicious marks a transitional moment for the MC.
Way back when, before Skepta picked up the mic, he made his way producing and DJing. It's not a feat he often gets a lot of credit, considering many of his biggest hits to date have been produced by himself. Much like J. Cole does with his own music, Skepta's approach suggests as much as his production is important to his artistry, it's just one of the many skills he needn't overstate. The Boy Better Know wordsmith went clear a long time ago, however, this year, we've seen him go from strength to strength.
After appearing on Drake's More Life, he also recently earned praise and recognition from Liam Gallagher, and he's someone who's known for not mincing his words. Both artists are similar in one fundamental way: they each represent a working-class community that the media and government continue to criminalise and disenfranchise. It also highlights that Skepta may just be one of the most impactful icons in British music, particularly since the turn of the millennium. Here's a track-by-track review of his new Vicious EP.
One of Skepta's endearing qualities as an artist is that, while his fashion and style has changed over the years, the vintage sound still remains. As he shouts out Boy Better Know's longtime engineer, MsM, nostalgia emerges from the crew's early music. Sonically, it's one of Skepta's best rap outings in some time and he often tends to excel on beats that are stripped back, allowing more room for his razor-sharp flow and delivery to flourish.
The Based God, aka Lil B, has been regarded as one of rap's most engrossing characters, from his cult status on the internet to his curse of Kevin Durant during his time with Oklahoma City Thunder. In a lot of ways, Skepta has achieved a cult status in the UK for his moment-defining moves, such as having his own Nike Air Max 97 trainer. The collaboration was a shrewd move on Skepta's part and his infiltration into Black American hip-hop culture has relied on collaborations that have not only beneffited US rappers and Skepta himself, but grime overall. Whether Lil B's verse sits well with fans or not isn't as important as Skepta further cementing himself in modern, post-internet pop culture.
Almost a year since "No Security" first dropped, its impact has dampened somewhat. Skepta's hype talk is some of the best in the scene and he's got the career achievements to back it up, but the beat selection felt too robotic in this instance. Upon first listen, it sounds eerily similar to Adenuga's 2014 hit, "It Ain't Safe", and although that isn't a bad thing, per se, it highlights that there was perhaps a need for Skepta to broaden his horizons when it comes to production.
A Skepta and Section Boyz collaboration was always going to be an interesting one, sonically. Neither compromised on their sound and instead decided to meet in the middle where the artists rode a darker but more uptempo, almost feel-good grime riddim. Purists will no doubt argue about where this track falls within the 'grime vs rap' debate, but it does both acts a disservice who have proven time and again their adeptness to straddle the lines of both, sometimes muddying the waters.
Dealing with the pressure of being a grime artist such as Skepta must be immense, and it's something he's documented a lot in the past. On the Konnichiwa skit, "Corn On The Curb" featuring Chip, he addressed his mixed feelings about often being the only black person in the room. A lot's changed in the past eighteen months, though: his critically acclaimed album went gold, he won an Ivor Novella, dropped his own Nike shoe, and launched his Mains clothing line—and there's no doubt the pressure can get to you. Instead, Skepta took a moment to remind folk that if they were him, they'd probably live life the same way.
Previously, Skepta appeared on A$AP Mob's second mixtape, Cozy Tapes Vol. 2, after A$AP Nast provided a verse on "Ladies Hit Squad" last year. It's the kind of haunting track you'd expect from a collaboration between Skepta, Rocky and Nast, but the Tottenham emcee's crossover appeal becomes difficult to ignore with each release. The BBK x A$AP link-up continues, and the long-standing relationships between the two outfits suggests a larger collaboration would be beneficial for both rap and grime.