At a time when some of the highest charting rappers in the world genuinely make themselves famous by alternately muttering things through auto-tune or shouting triplet figures based on couture clothing labels, it’s sort of redundant to talk about that whole Best Rapper Alive shit. Indeed, what used to be considered a prerequisite, like being able to spit bars fast or have excellent wordplay has now somehow found itself an underground concern. Personality looms large when you’re dealing with Young Thug, Migos and Future, so it helps that on the other side of the pond, there’s a rapper that manages to combine both. When Skepta first broke through international consciousness on ‘Shutdown’, it seemed like grime had a new poster boy that would hold the mantle for a while and then disappear. As it so happens, it wasn’t Skepta’s first rodeo. Following up that record with a killer album, he’s been dominant on the scene ever since, making significant inroads into America as the Adenuga brand continues to grow. With every new release he manages the trick that not many rappers can pull of nowadays; making substance sound eminently stylish.
For a while, you could only hear ‘No Security’ on Soundcloud, a release Skepta dropped especially for his fans on Halloween last year. But it’s turned out to be one of his most popular tracks (with good reason), and has subsequently been repackaged for the wider market, which seems as good a time as any to revisit it. Laced with malice but cool as a cucumber, Skepta swaggers into a swirl of synths, almost whispering ‘We don’t need no security/Stones in my jewelry/What can they do to me?’ It’s a lull that doesn’t last, the shimmer of treble and ambient ran giving way for one of the hardest bass lines since Wiley retired the first time.
I’ve always been impressed by rappers that can pull back the BPM and still manage to feel like they’re going at a hundred miles an hour. So it is with Skepta, whose spiky tenor slashes over the crushed digital bass and sparse drums like a ninja in the night. You know there’s propulsion there, a motor running in a car that’s parked just behind the mic which delivers Skepta the ability to drop perfect semiquaver phrasing with such wide open gaps in between. But mostly, it’s just that sense of real swagger, the bravado of knowing you’re at the top of your game and being able to take the time to get your point across. A lesser rapper would have had to call in a bunch of studio tricks to feel comfortable with a beat this strong. In Skepta’s hands, it’s like putty.
Play this in your car with the windows down.