Words by Brinsley Chadavaenzi
It’s always the lines that are the truest that stay with you. You can hear 3 minutes of bravado and the 2 lines that aren’t bravado make us feel seen.
Skepta has a habit of standout lines that do this with the lens of introspection. Skepta’s an artist in a unique position; having seen and being a part in the reshifting of UK music from the 2000’s to the 2010’s stateside relations, whilst bridging the sounds of U.K., Africa and the Caribbean.
The classic grime basslines which harken back to analog synthesisers on early dancehall records with a groove that fits the reggae hubris. Mixed with the polyrhythms of grime percussion which draw out back to West African traditionals long pre-dating digital drums and the 20th century. Skepta’s production manages to channel this energy over unpredictable sonic combinations. From the sounds of intoxicating production, inwards reflection has always been a driver for listeners to be compelled with the artists they’re listening to. Holding the mirror to say you and I are similar or to hold a torch to show the differences between our experiences which can bring a new found awareness to ourself, our peers and the world at large.
This has been a cherished aspect of music, throughout genres, throughout sounds and throughout time. Some introspection is painted in simple truths that are spades of acknowledgement, some more painted and abstract. Skepta’s always had the arc of self assurance, unwavering belief, and pure ethos from the days of Greatest Hits standout ‘I Spy’ which is an anthem in itself and a flow primed for a shutdown of any gathering, to Bullet from a Gun’s confessional grit that shutsdown and looks inward simultaneously.
“Then I saw my Grandad’s name on a gravestone, the same as mine, already dead, nothing to fear I’ve been here from time.” These lines alone can make you hold your head a little bit higher in this ever constant, ever changing life. Zen-ness and acceptance of life is a rarity and a clarity that can only be obtained in self-work, self-care and confronting our thoughts head on. Where everyone speeds ahead, Skepta slows down and pauses.
The art of introspection is pointing out something that’s invincible and making that visible. Ignorance is Bliss, Konnichiwa, Ojuelegba Remix, Blacklisted and his music preceding those records are evidence. “When I was in school being African was a diss/Sounds like you need help saying my surname Miss/Tried to communicate but everyday it’s like an episode of Everybody Hates Chris” is an incredible triplet that highlights the otherness that may have been felt with having surnames that weren’t commonplace. As well as the wordplay and entendres poking light at forms of communication barriers and unfair perceptions based on biases whilst being witty.
Skepta has influence and influence always permeates into what’s new – let’s hope the trailblazer’s brushes of introspection and reflection leads into more artists and a wider reverberation throughout UK music. Introspection doesn’t have to be over melancholic production, it can also be brave, bold and making the invisible, visible. That’s what Skepta does.