Listen #1: Rating: No Comment
Listen #2: Rating: 2.0
Listen #3: Rating: 3.0
In the last few years, Vice Magazine has gone from little old ‘zine to a full-fledged bible of controversy for its edgy coverage of music, fashion, art and entertainment. Now Vice is moving into uncharted territory by entering the world of music publishing. The first artist to come out on Vice Records is UK rapper/producer The Streets. Yup, don’t check twice. I said UK. As in British. As in British accent. I know…I was thinking the same thing. British accent? Can’t be a good thing. But Vice, of course, wouldn’t just sign any act. They’d sign someone that was innovative and different but bringing some quality music, right?
On my first listen, I was completely confused and second guessing the above assumption. I kept thinking, “What is this? Is he even rappin’?” That tricky British accent was too strange for me to swallow and the beats seemed impossible to flow over. A slave to the hype machine, I had to figure out why so much steam was coming off this kid lately. I listened again, and again, and again, and again. You get the point.
By my third listen I found myself enjoying Original Pirate Material. The Streets, 22-year-old Mike Skinner, primarily raps about ordinary things for a guy his age — video games, drugs, booze, clubs, girls and hanging out. While this may not sound groundbreaking, it’s something that is not often done anymore in hip-hop, or music in general. It’s refreshing to not have to hear about so and so being a baller or the baddest gangsta’ or about that damn open third eye everyone keeps rhymin’ about.
But the real beauty behind the record is The Streets’ ability to paint a picture of his world with his lyrics and unconventional hip-hop beats. Coupled primarily with UK garage beats, The Streets brings some of the most unique sounds to grace a hip-hop record in a long time.
The album begins with “Turn the Page,” a simple hard-hitting beat that The Streets’ rhymes complement perfectly. The instrumental works its way up before The Streets starts to spit his unconventional flow. What comes between “Turn the Page” and the last track, “Stay Positive,” are more songs that you’ll have trouble getting out of your head, even if you don’t want ’em there. All in all, The Streets’ Original Pirate Material is one of the most original albums I’ve heard in a long time.
The one letdown, though, was a few comparatively weak tracks. “Let’s Push Things Forward,” for example, though lyrically strong, suffers from a tired chorus and beat. But regardless of a few inconsistencies, the album is quite remarkable. It’d be a good move to buy Original Pirate Material just so that you can have a personal copy of “Stay Positive.” The gloomy beat matched with The Streets’ insightful lyrics on heroin addiction and the general tone of disenchantment creates the perfect song to end the album.