If you were living in New York and came across a copy of Wiley‘s new album, you might be mistaken for thinking it was the work of a native.
So far has the rapper come from his celebrated godfathering of the East London ‘grime’ sound, he now – for the moment – looks to have left it all behind. For how long who knows, but with a name-heavy guest list, the underground never seemed so far away.
That’s not to say this album is a failure. Far from it, as it powers through the songs with little trimming, all over in little more than half an hour. But there’s more than a whiff of Kanye West here, as Wiley sets about his full frontal assault on the dancefloor.
The inclusion of guests is often a stumbling block, but Wiley uses it to his advantage. Alexis from Hot Chip steps outside the comfort zone but supplies comforting vocals to Step By Step. And then there’s Kano & Scorcher, offering upbeat cameos as part of See Clear Now.
Wearing My Rolex is, of course, the star – given an overture in the Ryder Intro before pumping out the beats you will have heard from many a convertible over the summer. It’s a superb track, the fat beats and bass given urgent rapping to boot, and that Steve Winwood sample works a treat. It its three minutes it also shows how far Wiley has moved on since his ‘retirement’. Now it seems he was just retiring the old grime sound.
The aping of Kanye West only seriously holds him back in two tracks, Summertime and Cash In My Pocket. The former amounts to a basic copy of West’s Stronger, even taking a Daft Punk track to sample, in this case Digital Love. While it’s undeniably uplifting, you know Wiley’s capable of a lot more than this basically formulaic pop.
The latter, meanwhile, is a crass attempt to capture Britain’s current financial crisis, given a slick once over by Mark Ronson and admittedly decent vocals from Daniel Merriweather. All it does, on this occasion, is leave the listener feeing empty as they’re reminded how much money Wiley has, the gap between him and the listener bigger than ever.
These two aside, See Clear Now is a no frills triumph, easy to take at face value with its uplifting tracks, some up and at ’em riffs and mostly well chosen samples. Now Wiley has the money it’ll be interesting to see where he goes next – not for him the 808s and Heartbreak, surely?