The Streets’ 23-year-old Mike Skinner is the British Eminem — an MC with just too much going on in his life to rap about the usual fodder of clubs and champagne. And unlike other UK MCs, he isn’t trying to be down with hip hop so much as come up with his own version of it. Hailing from Birmingham (the UK equivalent of the Midwest) Skinner is a product of the pirate radio garage (gare-ij) scene, a UK phenomenon that combines rap MCs with jungle’s sped-up breakbeats smoothed over with an R&B sheen.
While crossover crooners like Craig David have been able to translate UK garage’s clip-clop to American audiences by burying it under a sheen of R&B croon, Skinner takes the UK sound back to its hip-hop inspirations. Skinner’s warm strings and abstract jazz melodies recall Gang Starr’s DJ Premier, while his blunt raps have a desperation to them that, once you get used to his thick British patois, is unshakable. His shell-shocked rhymes on the numb hip-hop closing track “Stay Positive” are as haunted as the song is haunting, while the precious-but-he-means-it earnestness of “Too Late” make it the kind of favorite song that high school kids write in the back of their yearbook and movie producers use for coming-of-age romantic comedies. And this in a song with a guy rapping about owing a drug dealer money and losing his girl because he’s too fucked-up to meet her at the airport. Like MC Yakov Smirnoff says, What a country — theirs and ours, huh?
E-mail Hobey Echlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at email@example.com.
Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.
Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.
Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.
Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.