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The Streets: A Grand Donít Come for Free

The Streets: A Grand Donít Come for Free


By Bret McCabe | Posted 6/30/2004

Mike Skinner raps like Christopher Walken speaks. The 23-year-old everyday British bloke behind the Streets never met a lyric he didnít transform into his own peculiar riff on Brummie intonation. Skinner squashes consonants, stretches one-syllable words into polyrhythmic banter, applies stresses unconvenTIONally, and has this nigh. Fascinating cadence that. Puts. Pauses in un. Expected places.

Skinnerís vocal charisma is a solid strength, as musically his sophomore joint, A Grand Donít Come for Free, is all setting, shifting rhythms and moods that stymie categorizing his schizophrenic beat mash of American hip-hop and U.K. garage (or whatever itís called now). You see, A Grand isnít merely an album. Itís Skinnerís concept novella told in 11 song chapters.

Itís an utterly uninteresting storyóbloke loses 1,000 quid, has girl, loses shit on E, lusts after a different girl, finds out girl shagged his mate, feels like hellówhich is why Skinnerís storytelling panache is so crucial. His slangy stream-of-consciousness rhymes carry A Grand from its going-nowhere beginning (ďToday Iíve achieved absolutely naught/ In just being out of the house Iíve lost out,Ē he quips on ďIt Was Supposed to Be so EasyĒ) through its drug-fueled paranoia (ďBlinded by the LightĒ) and climactic scene where a peacoat betrays infidelity (ďWhat Is He Thinking?Ē). Quotidian and droll, yes, but Skinner colors every corner with a ribald, manic precocity that animates his charactersí inner lives, making A Grand so engrossing to follow, and so difficult to ignore.

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