Grime for grown-ups: Skepta’s Igno­rance Is Bliss’

Review: Three years since the release of his celebratory Konnichiwa album, the platinum-selling MC reignites the energies of Blacklisted for his 2019 LP.

Rat­ing: 45

This is grime for the old­er man­dem,” my friend, 31, tells me as he blasts Bul­let From A Gun from out of the whip, and he’s not wrong: from Skep­ta and Ragz Originale’s futur­is­tic, warped-synth pro­duc­tion to lyrics of rush­ing home from a show to see his new­born child, the MC is in a new space – a firm­ly-root­ed, grown adult with respon­si­bil­i­ties just like the rest of us, 28 and over. Now in its 18th year of exis­tence, grime’s true essence lies with­in a war-ready state of mind and brag­gado­cios rhymes, but when it does get the chance to wear its heart on its sleeve, it’s cel­e­brat­ed, much like the work of Stor­mzy, Kano and Ghetts, and we get a lot of that on Igno­rance Is Bliss, weaved in with those very things that make grime, grime’ at its core. 

Between Bul­let…, and Greaze Mode with Luton rap­per Nafe Smal­lz – the sec­ond track shared from the album on the same day, May 9th, and also in order of appear­ance on the LP – you get a sense that Skepta’s in a place of find­ing a new sense of self, much like the sto­ry of his 2012 mix­tape-album, Black­list­ed. Back then, Joseph Junior Ade­nu­ga found him­self in under­dog psy­chosis”, an artist with an aim to rid him­self of cer­tain stereo­types and rigid ide­olo­gies, while now we’re see­ing a suc­cess­ful musi­cian try­ing to block out the trap­pings of fame – yet unashamed­ly still enjoy­ing some of its perks.

The next cut we hear is the ori­en­tal-licked, bass-shoot­ing son­ics of Redrum (again, like 95% of the album, pro­duced by Skep­ta) with Atlanta rap­per Key!. Togeth­er, Skep­ta and Key! deliv­er a pur­pose­ly ignant anthem for the turn up, with rhymes of shut­ting shit down wher­ev­er they go, when­ev­er. No Sleep, mean­while, with its hyp­not­ic xylo­phone knocks, tells the sto­ry of a man on the grind, and the pros of mind­ing your busi­ness to focus on your busi­ness; no time for slack­ness in Skeppy’s world. The R&B vibra­tions of What Do You Mean – fea­tur­ing the recent­ly-freed rap­per J Hus in full singing mode, on a beat Ted­dy Riley would approve of – is a spir­i­tu­al bop about know­ing your worth, and valu­ing your day ones. On Going Through It, with a son­ic nod to indus­tri­al tech­no, we see Skep­ta in anti-every­thing, anti-every­one mode, with an urgent flow allow­ing him to exer­cise his inner demons; You Wish is a light and breezy, but still-grimey jab at the oppo­si­tion (Wiley?); while Gangs­ta is a well-done fol­low up to Kon­nichi­wa posse cut Detox, with Shorty, Frisco, Jme and Jam­mer tak­ing aim at fake ones all over the robot­ic riddim. 

But it’s on Glow In The Dark where we see Joseph shine – at his intro­spec­tive, and wok­est, best. Pin­ning a flute-dri­ven back­drop, the Niger­ian Chief cel­e­brates black­ness in a world that wasn’t made for us to flour­ish; he touch­es on London’s youth vio­lence epi­dem­ic and politi­cians try­ing to get tick­ets to come to the shows” instead of deal­ing with the mat­ter at hand, all while shout­ing out Nel­son Man­dela and the old friends that doubt­ed him. The addi­tions of African megas­tar Wiz­kid and BBK’s Lay Z are just a bonus, tbh.

Despite a few wrong turns (Love Me, for the ill-fit­ting fea­tures; Same Old Sto­ry, for the ill-fit­ting pro­duc­tion), Igno­rance Is Bliss is a wel­come return to the throne for one of the UK’s great­est lyri­cal minds… Grime 3.0, anyone?

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