Words by Ryan Moss

In the years since Skepta dropped ‘Konnichiwa’, things have changed. No longer are Grime, UK Rap and the genres in between sidelined, they are championed. Whether it’s appearances at major festivals, placements on the BBC or just a general increase in visibility, Black music from the UK is ingrained in the fabric – and it isn’t going away. Skepta’s path since dropping his previous album has been one of success: he’s established himself further as an international star, and made marks in the fashion world with a clothing line. On top of that, collaborations with A$AP Rocky have been released. While the track in question and other collaborations in between this album were good, there was the creeping feeling that he was going to go in a watered down direction musically. With the release of ‘Ignorance is Bliss, any of those concerns have been washed away with force.

‘Bullet From A Gun’ kicks things off in a bold fashion, with Skepta setting the tone for what is mostly to come. Here, he recounts the success he’s achieved recently and touches on the lessons received over the years from his elders. The instrumental could stand on its own as a left field electronic cut, full of warped sounds and melancholic synths, a testement to his production ability. The highlight comes at the key change, with the intensity and tone of the track rising, the line ‘All I know is there’s no better feeling/than going home and seeing my little girl in the cot’ cuts through the noise to create a brief fever pitch before the track starts to wind down.

‘Redrum’ features a top notch vocal performance from Skepta. He loads up clip after clip of bars, then attacks the beat with surgical precision. It’s the grime flow in full effect – both exhilarating and dizzying, leaving no pocket of the beat unturned. Atlanta rapper Key! features on the guest verse, delivering a swampy verse where the beginnings and ends of words bleed into one another. Against the beat, his ‘woah, woah woah’ ad-libs sound like loose blades on a helicopter, lending a percussive vibe where the voice becomes an instrument in its own right. Unfortunately, Skepta’s precision cut proclamation that he’ll ‘slap it like Ike Turner’ is flat out dumb – but apart from that, instrumental and vocal combine to create a raw grime track primed for maximum energy.

The highlight of ‘Ignorance is Bliss’ comes in the middle section of the album, throughout the record it feels like Skepta is constantly playing with genre conventions and trying different things. But from ‘Same Old Story’ to ‘Glow In The Dark’ is where it all comes together, as he spans grime, garage and more to create different flavours. The unifying element is the flow, it’s that same direct Skepta, the same Skepta that could make the instructions to an electric cooker reload worthy, just over instrumentals that play slightly with the formula, often to devastating effects.

‘Same Old Story’ spins tales of relationships gone awry, with Skepta lamenting past unisons that have ultimately tread tired ground. The instrumental – rich with panpipes and flutes – is a real ear worm, refitting the timeless melodic style of Ruff Sqwad and DJ Oddz with a 2019 sheen. ‘Love Me Not’ and ‘Animal Instinct’ are two sides of the same coin, the former putting Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s ‘Murder on The Dancefloor‘ through the ringer. The result is an understated banger, channelling garage vibes without sounding too derivative. Relationships are again the main topic here, with Skepta returning to a theme that pops up throughout the album. This time it’s a lighter take, as he and B Live raise a shot for the ladies in the dance. The latter drops us into 8am after party energy. A heady dose of psychedelic grime, Skepta puffs out his chest and delivers an emphatic opening verse, marking his territory as one of the top in the game. Lancey Foux pops up afterwards, with an enigmatic verse that covers race and notions of identity.

‘Glow In The Dark’ riffs further on ideas of identity, its opening line feels like a jab at the criticism he faced when a video of him putting his fingers in his ears at the sound of the word ‘politics’ surfaced. Skepta has always been political in his music, documenting his upbringing and life as a young person, and has also publicly spoke against mainstream politicians in the media. We’ve seen rappers like Stormzy, Dave and Slowthai take shots at the establishment in their tracks, and it’s been in a very acute way, directly calling them on their polices and actions. That approach is valid, and possibly speaks to the shift in the way the discourse of politics has gone over the past few years, not to mention these artists are a fair bit younger than Skepta, therefore more likely to articulate their frustrations in said way. Maybe Skepta’s aversion to politics as we see it in parliament is a call for something different to that, informed by life experiences rather than ink on a ballot.

Elsewhere, there are more solid tracks throughout the album. The J Hus featuring ‘What Do You Mean’ is a hard bodied rap joint with strong wordplay from Hus. The BBK crew cut ‘Gangsta’ reminds us why they are forever one of the strongest units in the game, and ‘Greaze Mode’ is a trap banger with a cinematic video. The whole album feels like the sum of its parts, rather than a collection of bangers in the style of ‘Konnichiwa’. There are some mishaps, a dodgy lyric here or there, and some tracks that play around with structure and don’t really hit. But overall, it’s a welcome return for Skepta, reminding us that he’s still one of the best to do it on the mic, but also one of the best to do it on the buttons.

Stream Ignorance is Bliss below.

Posted by:Ryan Moss

I'm the sole founder, editor and writer for The Art Of Grime. I love grime and want to push all the sick artists doing things at the moment.

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