I wonder if the British have the same fascination with how they speak that we have. We snicker at their ‘torches’ and ‘lifts,’ drama students incessantly talk like them, and anyone with a trace of a British accent seems intelligent and worldly without saying anything more than “‘ello.” Surely they don’t see intrigue in our childish, “pAWrk tha cAWr” voices so they must also get great pleasure listening to themselves talk.
That theory is what I attribute to The Streets’ huge popularity in the UK. In America, the rap-speak of a white British man is popular for its novelty. Instead of saying cool he says ‘book,’ and when he says ‘football’ he means soccer! If I heard some joe blow, twenty-something American talking about his day over giant beats, I don’t think I would enjoy it as much as hearing the thick accent of The Streets’ Mike Skinner. Why would the UK be fanatic about this ‘more talk than rap’ M.C.? Those blokes bloody love the way they talk.
That’s all in partial jest though, The Streets have released two phenomenal albums, near flawless really, and the third, The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living, marks a third huge hit. It is formatted as a loose concept album based around the newfound wealth and success of The Streets’ sole-member, Mike Skinner. Song themes range from buying Ferrari’s, people taking camera phone pictures of Skinner while doing coke, and the ease with which he now gets girls.
Pretty standard stuff for most rappers these days, but Skinner’s first two albums focused on making the payments on time and worrying about his gambling mishaps. Though a more narrow scope than his previous material, Skinner’s superb lyrics provide both insight and humor beyond the capacity of most other rhymesmiths. The Streets’ new album is like a novel. There are motifs and themes that are laced in each song, jokes and bits of wisdom so embedded that each listen reveals more to love.
The Streets show a softer side on a couple tracks as well. “Never Went to Church,” his second single, talks of Skinner’s long-gone father and his wishes to still make him proud. “All Goes out the Window” is a sincere little ditty about cheating and finding real love. All at the same time, the Skinner wit invariably peaks out its head. In “Two great European Narcotics,” Skinner starts off “Never went to church/ Christianity and alcohol … I know which one I prefer.”
Different but equal from his previous albums, The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living may not be as cohesive an album, but it marks a great improvement in the creation of individual songs. Skinner’s hooks and melodies where near abrasive and took some time to appreciate, but with the new album, songs catch on immediately while retaining the edge of old work. The best summer album this year, it’s perfect for cruising and partying while still retaining total cred. Most importantly though is that British accent, so fuckin’ book.