Words by Anthony Osborn
Release Date: January 13th
Label: Wiley / CTA Records
Wiley is a British music legend at this point, and the aptly named Godfather sees him reclaim the crown of the genre he essentially put on the map well over ten years ago. If Skepta’s Konnichiwa was your first taste of grime, Godfather is going to be your background reading.
As his eleventh and proposed ‘final album’, Godfather sees Wiley emerging all guns firing to deliver an album that encapsulates where grime has come from and its newfound mainstream presence through the ever-growing stature of artists like Skepta and Stormzy.
With booming and vibrant production typical of grime at it’s best, Wiley shows off his array of flows and impressive wordplay all over Godfather, proving any trepidations I had going into this record to be completely wrong. Despite being 38 years old and no longer the name in grime (hello, Skepta), Godfather proves that Wiley is as hungry and vital as ever, with Godfather not a limp finish to a career like many finales are, but instead a tour de force and celebration of his career.
Wiley may not be everyone’s cup of tea, particularly for those unfamiliar to the hallmarks of grime, however, his charisma and energy behind the mic is undeniable, even after well over a decade and eleven albums into his career. “Can’t Go Wrong” and “Birds N Bars” highlight Wiley’s hunger on this record, with his desire to outdo all of his peers and disciples materialising in his aggressive flow, miraculous wordplay and sneering confidence.
Godfather sees Wiley bring on a range of guests, including internationally renowned artists such as his BBK alumni Skepta and JME, as well as Devlin, and lesser known champions of the scene such as Ghetts, Lethal Bizzle and the Newnham Generals. Despite such star power and the implentation of posse cuts (“Name Brand”), Wiley ensures he is never outdone, constantly going toe to toe with his often younger counterparts to create an album of such energy and charisma that you will struggle to turn it off.
Wiley has been dealt quite a bit of criticism over his career regarding some feeling that he has pandered his music towards a broader audience at times, and whether such arguments are valid or not, Godfather sees Wiley effectively walk a delicate line between sticking true to the foundations he and his counterparts built grime upon, being single-focussed and delivering a record that sounds fresh and necessary.
Godfather does contain some corny one-liners here and there (e.g. “You’re plain, I’m the loaded nachos”) and its back-half is not as attention-grabbing as it’s first, and although the album’s energy, courtesy of Wiley’s charismatic flow, does prevent much of these issues as being real concerns, there are still sections of the album that did wear a little thin for me (“Laptop, for example), despite the record being thoroughly enjoyable overall. Whether this energy and charisma continues to make up for some less enjoyable moments in the long-run remains to be seen, however, there is no doubting that the majority of this album is a damn good time.
Wiley has been very public in his attempt at distancing himself from being the ‘Godfather of Grime’, a title the media has bestowed upon him constantly throughout his career, however, with Godfather being his proposed final release, Wiley finally seems confident and comfortable enough to reclaim the title and ensure that his legacy in the genre will never be forgotten. It may not have the same broad appeal of a Konnichiwa, however, Godfather is certainly a worthy finale, and a perfect representation for all the genre has achieved to date and what it can potentially achieve down the line, whether this mainstream revival is lasting or not.
Favourite Tracks: Bring Them All / Holy Grime (feat. Devlin), Can’t Go Wrong, Back With A Banger, On This (feat. Chip, Ice Kid & Little D)
You can buy Godfather here.