Wiley is a national treasure: an eccentric whose natural musical talents are matched only by a constitutional inability to play the industry game. 100% Publishing finds him going back to basics. A "return to grime" is too simplistic, but its beats are sparse, functional and judiciously melodic (a carousel melody here, a reflective piano loop there) in ways that will be recognisable to fans of his original eski sound.
The last time grime godfather Wiley put out an album on Big Dada, 2007's Playtime Is Over, he was dropping vague hints about the release being his last solo record. Then "Wearing My Rolex" blew up. Everything since has been a jumble of pop moves, renunciations of said pop moves, double-reverse crossovers, beefs, mixtapes, label changes, and that one time last year the UK rapper/producer just up and released eleven zip files of unreleased beats for free.
It must say something about the state of hip-hop in the 21st century that whereas rappers used to brag about the size and number of their platinum chains and luxury SUVs, they are now starting to brag about their prowess at contract negotiation. (What exactly this development says about the state of hip-hop may be unclear, but it must say something.) For Richard Cowie, aka Wiley, contract terms are just one more topic out of left field that acts as grist for the high-speed grind of his lyrical flow. Others include existential search queries ("Some days I'm asking God/But then the Internet is quicker") and just plain existentialism ("Wise Man and His Words").
Prior to writing this, I knew very little about Wiley or his reputation as Grime overlord. I knew not of the fact that roughly a year ago Richard Cowie had both fired his manager, and given away over 180 tracks via Twitter. I was unaware of the inexplicably compelling banality of his Ustream. I did not know he had once been the subject of an Internet hoax that led many to believe that the rapper had been stabbed to death (not necessarily a stretch of the imagination, when you consider that Wiley has been the victim of stabbings on two previous occasions).
New Musical Express (NME) - 70 Based on rating 3.5/5
There’s this bloke that gets on my bus and sits there screaming that he’s a deposed king. He reminds me of Wiley, except [a]Wiley[/a] isn’t a psychiatric patient, he actually is king of the Eski ring. While P-Money and Trim champion the new wave of grime, Wiley’s love for ranting and riling the younger generation apropos of nothing has them bitching about his lack of relevance.
If you were Wiley, it would be perfectly reasonable to wish it were still 2003. Back then, the man born Richard Cowie was heralded as the leading light of an exciting and challenging new breed of hip-hop – UK grime. It was more brutal and sparse than its polished American cousin, and Wiley was set to take the charts by storm. Except, he didn’t.
Grime Godfather Wiley makes a serious assertion on “Talk About Life”, one of the deeper cuts from his completely independent new album, 100% Publishing: “Labels say that you can have control, but labels lie a lot.” I’ll repeat that in case it slipped by you: 100% Publishing is completely independent. And Wiley wants you to know it. After some mainstream success in 2008 with the house-flavored, pop-oriented “Wearing My Rolex” and subsequent falling out with Asylum over the production on See Clear Now, Wiley retreated back to artistic independence.
He’s kept grime moving forwards with some truly audacious sounds. Lloyd Bradley 2011 The best thing about grime is its open-mindedness: there’s nothing it won’t absorb or recycle in order to achieve its ends, and as a result keeps moving on. This is why it’s lasted for as long as it has. Wiley, one of the originals who evolved the style out of UK garage and jungle, has been around longer than most.
U.K. grime king Wiley’s latest album, 100% Publishing, exists in a very un-American space—not un-American in a threat-level-orange, underwear-bombing terrorist-y way; just in terms of its chances of ever being played at a Fourth Of July cookout. In America, there’s probably a better chance that you blew your head off with fireworks on the Fourth Of July than heard the demented grime carnival melody in Wiley’s “Boom Boom Da Na.” On the title track, Wiley muses about his potential to break into the U.S.