The wait is over. We finally have a new project from the international man of grime, Skepta, who has collaborated with OG Tim Westwood on a brand spanking new mixtape. It’s not his hotly anticipated album Konnichiwa but it represents the Tottenham MC’s first full body of work since 2012’s Blacklisted. Skepta has even embarked on an refreshing marketing campaign for the tape, handing out copies on the streets of New York before before the entire 19-track project reached the internet.
Excitement for this mixtape had been sky high following Joseph Junior Adenuga’s announcement in July on New York radio station Hot 97 that his collab with Westwood was coming. Konnichiwa is a delayed process, but Skepta was getting ready to quench our thirst with a fire mixtape, with fresh new material that would hold us over until the tentative release of the holy grail.
But, after listening to the tape, I can say that I felt hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray and run amok. Eagerly expecting new material from Boy Better Know’s finest, I was disappointed to discover that there was only a couple real unheard tracks, and instead the tape was a collection of all the songs he has previously released over the last few months, including a couple from Blacklisted.
My immediate response was sheer frustration – “Really Skepta, really?” – I waited so long only to receive a bunch of songs that have been out for a minute now.
The only tracks from the tape I hadn’t heard were his verse on Jamie xx’s “I Know There’s Gonna Be Good Times”, “My Crew”, “Frisco”, “Supposed To Do” and “Top Boy”, while the rest of the tape consisted of summer bangers “Shutdown” and “That’s Not Me”, as well as his collab with Wizkid and Drake “Ojuelegba” and his feature on Flatbush Zombies’ “Red Eye To Paris”.
“Top Boy” was dope, with Skepta’s trademark wordplay shining over a fire beat, while I preferred Frisco’s verse on “Good Times”. “Frisco” was a great song also, and Skepta’s freestyle on Westwood’s radio station, from way back in 2008 which is the final track of the tape, offers much perspective – Skepta is still just as hungry as back then, slewing the mic with ease.
I continued to remain conflicted and let down. But it began to make more sense to me – Skeppy was in New York earlier this week handing out the tape to passers by. Perhaps then, he is promoting the tape only in the United States more generally, a country that, despite co-signs from Kanye West, Drake, ASAP Mob and Ratking to name a few, still might not yet be hip to the Microphone Champion.
It could be that he is limiting the mixtape’s exposure strictly to the States as a way to generate a new fanbase, knowing full well that his supporters back in this country will have already heard the majority of tracks on the tape. Whether its a smart marketing tactic or not, it can’t help but leave me wanting more.
Perhaps I expected too much – Skepta never really suggested that the mixtape would be full of brand new material. Maybe I just assumed it would do but, with every listen, you start to get the celebratory feel that this tape represents – an acknowledgement of the grime OG’s journey since about 2012, in which he has done his damn thing, how he wanted and when he wanted, gaining big friends in the process. He has stayed true to himself and his crew and the organic transition to an international star is the fruit of his labour.
I’ve now come to accept the mixtape for what it is and it was a happy musical reminder of the strides Skepta has taken over the past couple of years, strides he has taken on his own terms. It makes the wait for Konnichiwa all the more impatient….but the tape will have to hold me over until then.