Review Summary: Only Wiley could put out an album titled Godfather and not come off as arrogant.
Only Wiley could put out an album titled Godfather
and not come off as arrogant. It is, after all, the name given to him by the grime scene out of respect, recognition of the tremendous influence he’s had on a genre that hasn’t had many “big names” to tout in its relatively short lifespan. It was his forays into the chart world - where he toned down grime’s bare-faced swagger to appease the masses – that were responsible for drawing attention to the then fledgling genre and Wiley himself. “Name Brand” is a reference to this fame, a nod to the fact that Wiley is the most well-known artist in grime; his “name's gonna ring bells to newspaper readers” as he puts it.
Although it’s clear from the start that Godfather
isn’t tailored to the general audience. This is unapologetically grime-y grime, filled to the brim with thumping, wobbling bass and Wiley’s signature “liquid flow”. This isn’t surprising considering Godfather
is supposedly Wiley’s last LP, one last salvo of grime bangers to close out his career and cement his place in grime history. Opener “Birds n Bars” understandably wastes little time in cutting to the action, setting the scene with cloudy nostalgia to prepare us for Wiley’s last hurrah. And he doesn’t disappoint, spraying out his bars at intensely high speeds, providing flurries of well-deserved brags regarding his ubiquity as well as his legacy as the godfather. His experience shows through his flawless flow, bars spinning off relentlessly at dizzying speeds.
If anything it's Godfather
’s lyrics that are a let-down. Now, grime has never been a genre that’s relied on clever wordplay, instead putting emphasis on rapid-fire flows that can keep up with the bouncing bass-lines and frantic beats, but that doesn’t excuse the sup-par moments (the pathetically earnest love focused lyrics on “U Were Always, Pt.2”, for example). Annoyingly, it’s not even Wiley but his features that fail to impress. Why he sullied his final effort by letting so many unproven young artists come onto this I will never know; all they achieve is killing any momentum Wiley’s rapid flow builds with their inane lyrics. This results in the best tracks being those that only Wiley is present on, while the others become just another grime track prevented from being spectacular by plain amateurism.
does redeem itself through two detours though. “U were Always, Pt.2” may have some really bad lyrics, but its smooth, laid back, RnB approach is a welcome change and surprisingly well done. “Laptop” too stands out for its heavily digital aesthetic, and although it may sound a bit like Wiley’s been paid to do a MacBook Pro promotion at parts, it’s indicative of the skill that puts him above the rest in a genre that flounders in mediocrity: which is why it’s such a shame he’s supposedly bowing out.