Getting saddled with the nickname the ‘Godfather of Grime’ can be something of a mixed blessing. Sure, you get respect for being a driving force of one of the most significant recent trends in British music, but it also means that you have numpties screaming ‘sellout’ if you dare to veer from your established template.
From his pirate radio beginnings with a number of different crews, Wiley has done more to promote grime than just about anyone in the game. He’s also experienced plenty of criticism from dim-witted purists for his insolent desire to push things forward and have actual hits. Call it the Dizzee Effect.
‘Reload’ is unlikely to please those who think Wiley should have sworn a monastic oath to stay underground for the entirety of his career, but you can’t see him caring too much. It’s an unashamed pop song that deploys a house-tinged take on drum’n’bass with the sole effect of getting the party started. It’s a task the track accomplishes admirably. Wiley is in fine lyrical form, while collaborator Chip’s verse acknowledges old-school grime with a shout out to Casualty-sampling So Solid Crew members Oxide & Neutrino. Man, remember them?
In any case, the haters may not have Wiley to kick around much longer. If he’s to be believed, forthcoming album ‘The Ascent’ may be one of his last.
“I’d just like to put this album out then make one more solo album then focus on my record label A List,” he told The Independent. “I don’t want to be 34 and still making music myself, I’d rather go out whilst I’m at the top of my game.”
It’s an admirable sentiment and he’s certainly earned the chance to take a rest. ‘The Ascent’ will be his seventh album in nine years, not counting numerous mixtapes and the record label infuriating decision to give away some 200 tracks for free via Twitter in 2010. Forget the narrow genre definitions, Wiley is keeping it real by simply doing only what he wants to do.