'Playtime Is Over' is no classic, but those retirement plans could be on hold for a...
Adam Webb 2007-05-09
Unless he’s pulling that age old American trick (hello Jay-Z) Wiley’s third official album could well be his last – a final shot at greatness before walking away and leaving ‘em wanting more. Hence the title: a time to put away childish things, make some great music and take care of business.
No wonder the man’s disaffected after his experience with Roll Deep. “In At The Deep End” might have shifted 100,000 units, but it remains a stain on an otherwise blemishless CV. The crew’s appearance on TOTP was particularly excruciating – like watching Premiership players with their legs nobbled.
Now released from major label shackles, the Eski Boy sounds literally unleashed from the muzzle. Opener “50/50” finds him revelling in new-found freedom – firing tributes to his new record label over typically minimal beats. It’s as thrilling as anything on “Treddin’ On Thin Ice” – to these ears, still the best grime album so far - but whether this uncompromising sound will the meet requirements of his pension plan is, perhaps, open to question.
And, while sonically excellent, lyrically, too many tracks fall short of the grade. Delving inside himself to reveal the love for his daughter (“Baby Girl”) and the true nature of the streets (“Nothing About Me”), elsewhere there’s too much blind posturing. He might lead an insular scene, but Wiley doesn’t speak for London so much as a solitary postcode, namely “Bow E3”.
Such parochialism is eventually pretty boring. While Dizzee Rascal (addressed here on “Letter 2 Dizzee”) has taken the music global, his mentor remains rooted to the spot. Nobody doubts the authenticity or production brilliance, but you imagine Wiley himself will eventually demand fresh challenges. The upshot of which for his fans is both good and bad news: Playtime Is Over is no classic, but those retirement plans could be on hold for a while longer yet.