The Streets is Mike Skinner, a Brit geezer that crossed the Atlantic and injected a new flavor and dimension to this thing called hip hop. My introduction to Mike was while I was working hard on one of the computers, had the electronica music channel on the tele (wired to the input of the stereo, killed the video) and there was just the background “ambient” tracks radiating, until it got to a point when this wicked record came on, I’d say mid-first verse I stopped what I was doing, listened to the track, turned on the tele – to see who this was. Oh, it’s The Streets. I’ll have to remember that, making a mental note.

Surprisingly during one of those “Let me just check out the Virgin store – only for a minute” events and exiting with a couple CDs, I picked up The Streets’ sophomore record – A Grand Don’t Come For Free. At the apt I tracked to the 6th joint – “Get out of my house”. Yes that’s the one I heard on the television music stream. Well that was the start and since then the record has been getting heavy rotation; Mike and I are best chaps.

A Grand Don’t Come For Free is a record that feels like watching a favorite movie and picking out new, cleaver, subtle elements after the 7th viewing. First time around you have to get past the fact that it is not American “Urban” hip hop, but rather a fusion of UK garage beats, pure American hip hop storytelling, and a sort of day in the life of a young English bloke. The slang is heavy at times, but is makes total sense in the context (and a bit infectious).
So it was on the 5th or 10th listening of the ENTIRE record did I make the connection. Oh, it’s a concept type record. Each song is different, but there are themes, motifs, and plots that are spread across and repeated thorough the 11 tracks. I want you to listen and discover it, but I’ll tell you it is the most cinematic telling of a missing 1000 pounds (currency) and a broken television.

The Street’s perspective is not of some bling-bling playa, fantasy balla, manufactured gangsta – that constant, manipulated viewpoint we are forced feed, but rather of a blue collar, working class 20-something bloke that simply enjoys the pubs, PlayStation, at times illicit narcotics, and when it comes down to it (“Dry Your Eyes”) a good girl (bird). But it is that real life drama that happens to the everyday man – poor cellular phone reception, rushing to return the DVD back in time to avoid the late fee and then realizing you’ve left it back at home. Mike expresses the many emotions and experiences that we all feel.

Skinner captures the root of hip-hop; he tells stories, cleverly. He specializes in taking the everyday, common event and paints a vivid and familiar picture that seems effortless. He is a true asset to the hip hop phenomenon. Mike Skinner is a brilliant geezer, I’d down a few pints with him any day; wouldn’t do the weed since I don’t smoke, but a pint or two any day.