Review Summary: Grime says hello
When Skepta first uploaded “That’s Not Me” to Youtube in April 2014, not even the grime veteran himself would foresee the surge in popularity the genre would experience over the following months. “That’s Not Me” was one of the earlier in a string of singles that would reignite a genre that had long been festering. Struggling to appeal to an international audience unfamiliar with the music’s UK garage-based rhythms and strong Jafaican accents, much of its popularity dwindled outside of secondary school playgrounds and niche nightclubs. Many of the darlings of the genre, Skepta included (see also: Dizzee Rascal, Chipmunk, etc), would attempt to establish more commercial pop-rap styles, with usually awkward and tacky results. Konnichiwa
was always to be Skepta’s “return-to-roots” LP and a re-assertion of his identity (the sprinklings of Japanese chic feel more ironic than any genuine attempt at forging a theme) but with the mass exposure spawned in 2014 its release date has been pushed back not just the one time, and its unveiling in 2016 feels more like an affirmation of the success of the last two years than a revolution in itself.
The majority of the album does well in displaying its gritty, back-to-basics approach, presenting Skepta’s commanding flow over elementary but tight and bass-heavy beats. Of the twelve tracks here however, five have already been released prior to the album (three of them at least a year ago) and most of the best cuts will be found among them. “Man”, "That's Not Me" and “Shutdown” are all straightforward grime floor-fillers, and “It Ain’t Safe” might be among the best ever released in the genre. Rarely does Konnichiwa
stray far from the blueprint, so that even the sung hook in “Ladies Hit Squad” feels uncharacteristic, but even there its D Double E that steals the show. Considering the album’s length (especially when compared to the sixteen track album JME released last year) it’s a shame many of the previously unreleased tracks like “Numbers” and “Text Me Back” fall relatively flat ("Detox" and "Crime Riddim" are notable exceptions). At this point however, Skepta lives in the knowledge that his future will likely not be defined by Konnichiwa
’s present release, and his next steps in a scene experiencing a powerful renaissance will surely be worth following.