Tag Archives: Streets

New video: The Escapist by The Streets

Video: The Streets – “The Escapist”

From Everything is Borrowed, due in the UK on September 15.

Mike Skinner says: “During a great period of intense mixing we decided that it might be nice to shoot a video. This isn’t the way the record industry works and so it was under the radar of the label and done totally for us by us on a shoe string. It was totally different from any other promo that I’ve made in that it was something real that we just filmed rather than trying to create something real looking using lots of people and lots of angles. I feel like it’s more than a video in that sense. As well as looking quite odd without all the singing and quick cuts.”

The StreetsWeb, MySpace, Wiki.

The Streets: Pissing In The Cereal

Living EasyThe StreetsThe Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living (Vice)

Mike Skinner just won’t shut the fuck up. You’d think that after conquering drug abuse (now demoted from drug abuser to simply drug user), having a childhood friend expose him as a phony, getting over the girl at the gates, getting over the girl who was whoring it up with Dan, losing a small fortune and then finding it inside his T.V., and becoming a darling here in the States and downright hero back home, Skinner would finally look at his ATM receipt (insufficient funds no longer) and finally smile. No dice.

Playing the tortured celebrity is a tough sell—you can complain all you want, but we normal folk find it hard to believe that the more money you come across the more problems you see. At least Biggie had some perspective; he really did come from nothing. Skinner, however, has had his legitimacy questioned from the very beginning of attention thrown at Original Pirate Material. Oddly, the typically cynical music media wasn’t the source—a friend of Skinner’s prepared a lengthy written rant exposing lots of tidbits on his personal life that would’ve probably been embarrassing had it not consisted of mostly high-school gossip material like the ugly shirt Mike used to wear out to clubs. Music critics fell in love with Pirate‘s obsession with dingy British urban life and its dangers, whether the words were born of experience or passive observation didn’t seem to enter into the equation. We’ve had lots of experience hearing people complain about their shitty upbringings, so that didn’t bother anyone in particular. And besides, no one had expressed their hardships like that. You know, like that. We even gave Skinner a second pass—in fact, called him a genius—when he spent the entirety of A Grand Don’t Come For Free spilling his heart amidst a pile of empty cans. We’ve all had our hearts stomped on, and there was still that way of storytelling and delivery that made his first album so enthralling. But, really, what would Skinner complain about on his third album? I hoped he’d find something.

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The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come for Free

The StreetsA Grand Don’t Come for Free (Atlantic)

Everything about Mike Skinner’s debut, Original Pirate Material (review), seemed too real—his portrayal of everyday life wasn’t a Hollywood blockbuster, instead it focused on intricacy and reality, an element lacking in music (specifically in hip-hop, whose artists have seemingly forgotten the genre’s roots). A Grand Don’t Come for Free isn’t a concept album like Original Pirate Material was—it’s a story. Whereas Pirate delivered you fragments of the picture to be pieced together, Grand is an urban opera, each chapter is delivered linearly by song.

Musically, Skinner’s beats are still golden. Although they never evolve—the way each song begins is basically how it ends—they are simply a backdrop to Skinner’s words, which are just as poignant and visually expressive as they were the last time around. It’s his lyrical quality that more then makes up for what is, essentially, clich├ęd plot. The story’s protagonist Mike falls in love with Simone, the relationship goes sour and Mike cheats on Simone with the “fit girl” depicted in lead single “Fit But You Know It.” Along the way, he realizes that his friends aren’t who he thought they were and, in his own words, “Everyone’s a cunt in this life.”

When everything goes to shit, Skinner ends the album with this: “Something that’s not meant to be now is done / This is the start of what was.” It’s obvious he is referring to the life we knew of on Original Pirate Material. And really, more then either album, it’s the two put together that display why Skinner approaches life in his art like the best. We are given a window in which to view Skinner’s own existence, he playing the role of everyman. Our lives are movies, poetry, and great literature. They are made up of phrases, and like any great epic the curtain closes on one moment and a new act begins. Original Pirate Material is the portrait of who exactly Mike Skinner is. A Grand Don’t Come for Free is just one small era in his story. When it ends, he goes back to being just another geezer.

Much like every album that unveils a story, the songs here aren’t meant to be taken out of the context of the album. Truly, A Grand Don’t Come for Free is far more powerful then the sum of its parts. Discredit him, if you’d like, for his occasionally goofy, forced delivery. That’s your mistake, because Skinner doesn’t want to beat the rap game. His focus is something far more valuable—he has emerged as one of the brightest poets we have, someone who sees the forest through the trees. By reciting his own story, Mike Skinner has reminded us of one of the greatest lessons we can learn in life—everything is ever-changing and—honestly—we have no idea what’s to come in our own great tales. A new chapter begins every minute.

Johnny’s Musical Memories, 2002

The Chinese lunar calendar declares 2003 will be the year of the goat. While this definitely portends danger for many musicians who are currently heroes or heroines in hearts of millions (Kelly Rowland should be very worried), let’s take a moment to look back on what the same calendar called the year of the black horse, 2002. Some musical highlights are described below. In the meantime, let’s all look forward to “American Idol 2”, “Joe Millionaire”, “Star Search: Live!”, “The Bachelorette”, and “Celebrity Mole: Hawaii”, which curiously features no actual celebrities. (Aside to Stephen Baldwin – It’s true. You’re not really a celebrity. Get a real job and leave us alone.)

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The Streets – Original Pirate Material

The StreetsOriginal Pirate Material (Vice)

Original Pirate Material, the debut from The Streets (aka Birmingham’s Mike Skinner), is an ambitious story-cycle with musical influences as disparate as the urban UK culture described in Pirate‘s songs. Rapping over skittering two-step and next-generation big beat grooves, Skinner presents his Everykid – the Geezer – as a smart, cynical lout who likes drinking beer, pounding fast food, and hitting up the PS2. Rapping in his unadorned commoner’s speech, Skinner emulates the offhanded, yet serious as a heart-attack, flow of a Mos Def or Jeru the Damaja. The beats are occasionally a bit flat, but Pirate is never, ever boring. It’s especially interesting to listen to as a document of urban life in the UK, and how the same trends and marketing that have come to dominate American youth culture aren’t that much different across the pond. Skinner’s main character always seems to keep one eye on the people that are trying to influence he and his mates, while the other is eyeing the latest Playstation game or the Man U highlights on Sky Sports. Original Pirate Material – an interesting hip-hop document that also rocks the house.