Stunning debut from The Streets aka Mike Skinner. Hip hop, drum and bass garage, house...
Christian Hopwood 2002
It appears that many of those who have faced the challenge of reviewing this album are in agreement that word count is a real bind. There is just too much to say. In fact, a small book could, and probably will, be written examining what The Streets has achieved with the execution of Original Pirate Material.
It could be argued that not since Never Mind The Bollocks... has there been a record that has said as much about being young and living in the UK. Moreover, what makes this album even more remarkable is that it is the work of a one unassuming 22 year old, namely Mike Skinner.
Despite an early passion for hip hop and house Mike was never embroiled in the London's pirate radio scene, in fact he was working in Australia when the UK garage cemented its position in the mainstream. Perhaps it is this cultural and geographical distance that has kept Skinner's musical slate clean and allowed him to forge this unique 'high rise' style. Ska, dub, house, drum and bass, hip hop and UK garage have all been thrown in to The Streets' sampler for processing and rearrangement. When combined with his vocal delivery the results are mesmerising - not quite hip hop, not quite an MC and not quite slam poetry but somewhere in between. He's engaged, enlightened and writes with a degree of insight that is humorous, heart-wrenching, humbling and worthy of so much more than this little review.
By his own admission Original Pirate Material is the "day in the life of a geezer" yet amongst the bitter sweet, inner city anecdotes of drugs, violence, playing computer games, trips to the garage and going clubbing, Mike's best punches are pulled when he is at his most sensitive. In "Weak Become Heroes" he muses "It's easy, no one blames you, it's that world out there that's f**ked!... you're no less of a person and if God exists he still loves you, just remember that". In "Has It Come To This" he announces, "The music's a gift from the man on high, the lord and his children". More of these gems are revealed with successive listens and it is clear as the title in "Let's Push Things Forward" suggests Mike is on a mission.
In the years to come if you're ever asked what it was like being young at the start of the twenty first century you could do a lot worse than dig this album out of your collection provided, of course, you've taken it out of your CD player. Genius.