Dizzee and Wiley's original crew, still keeping it grimey...
Jim Young 2007
It’s a busy time for grime. Wiley and one time protégé now sparring partner Dizzee Rascal have both just released new solo albums. Roll Deep, the crew that bore them both and first brought the grime scene to be seen in the mainstream is only now releasing this follow up to 2005’s In At The Deep End. Wiley has said that he wants to retire from the frontline and hand over to the likes of new hot shots Skepta, Trim and JME, all who feature heavily on this mixtape. This is the sound of the baton passing.
The first half is patchy. Among the highlights is the single “Celebrate”, a jumping strings and flute looped celebration of both “In at the Deep Ends” success and their return to the underground. Up there too is "Badman" a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of gun use and one of a number of conscious songs that punctuate the album. Like K-lash and others Roll Deep are keeping East London brit-hop rough but responsible: the video for Badman is used by the police’s StoptheGuns.org campaign. The failures of the first half only really come when they try to be too smooth for this reviewer’s taste, as in the frankly cheesy “Floating thru da sky”.
The second half of the album is darker and more experimental than the first and all the better for it. From “Rules And Regulation” - chorus chanted by what sounds like Darth Vader’s bad acid brother - through to joyful gem “Roll Deep Regular” the standard is gold. Structure is chopped up and fried and the diy beats and synths are clashing and angular. See ragga flavoured track “Babylon Burner” and strung out, stringed up “Hickory Dickory” for showcase examples.
Throughout the rapping comes slick and fast and is never swamped by the pared back, clever production. This crew is all about putting the rapping first and in the days of US gloss and super producers that is fresh indeed. As they say on the totally new “Something New” - 'No American accents, straight English'. Yes please, make that a double. Roll Deep are indeed threatening to release another album later this year. One to watch out for.