Release Date: Jan 19, 2012
Record label: Big Dada
First name’s Richard and his middle name’s Kylea, but everyone knows him as Wiley, the UK producer and rapper who’s unusually busy, even by hip-hop’s pro-hustling standards. Last year saw multiple mixtapes and two official albums, one of them released on Wiley’s own label. Now he’s back with the double album Evolve or be Extinct, basically a tribute to his workaholism.
It takes a pretty special type of artist to release 11 zip files of music for free, follow that up with three albums within a year and still pique your interest when a new release crosses the doorstep. But such is the way of [a]Wiley[/a], a man who somehow seems to combine the roles of godfather and joker in the UK’s urban music scene. Part of the interest in any new album is guessing which Wiley is going to turn up.
Wiley has a creative energy not entirely common among his peers, not just in urban music, but in any part of the British music scene. In the past 10 months, he has released three albums, an instrumental collection and, just to keep things interesting, an EP, too. That can mean that not everything he puts out is of the highest quality, but that's hardly the case with this collection.
In the same way that sharks are unable to stop swimming, the abundantly gifted east London rapper Wiley seemingly cannot stop releasing music and the title of his eighth studio album suggests the urgency of his need to document in surreal detail the ups and downs of his everyday life. Here, the grime star gets hassle from taxi dispatchers and immigration officers and he assures us that his bank card will never be declined unless perhaps he's abroad on a sightseeing trip. It's bonkers and frequently brilliant.
In the early days of grime, say around 2002 or 2003, it was easy for Americans (many of us still using dial-up to snag single MP3 transmissions from the London underground) to feel like we'd never be able to keep up. Almost a decade later, it still feels impossible, but for entirely different reasons: Whether we're talking about freestyles caught on cell phones in clubs or fully thought-out mixtapes, the brand-newest shit from grime's young turks and old hands is now instantly accessible. Much like the current state of U.S.
In late 2011, Wiley dropped the very good 100% Publishing, and less than six months later, he topped it with the excellent Evolve or Be Extinct. The British rapper continues to slowly kill the child he helped create -- grime -- by expanding its boundaries and rethinking its parameters to the point that the term is slowly ceasing to have much real meaning. His roots still show, of course: the sharp, double-time rapping on "The Door to Zion" and the title track are juxtaposed with dark, lurching beats that will be comforting to anyone adept with the genre.
“Outside of Rap, I listened to a lot of Katy Perry, and I listened to Ke$ha. I listened to like different, really weird music. I listened to Black Eyed Peas, and just people who are not scared to go out of the boundaries I suppose.” –Wiley Wiley shared this information in a recent HipHopDX interview with Jada Gomez-Lacayo, which certainly rings true while listening to his latest offering, Evolve or Be Extinct.
Wiley is an idiosyncratic musical powerhouse whose output exists in two distinct spheres. A rapier-witted MC and producer, his most vibrant and compelling work is often found on underground mixtapes and grainy battle footage rather than his more polished LP offerings. Having risen through the harsh drama of the early 00's East End grime scene to mainstream dalliances of varying success, he's always maintained an unswerving commitment to brutal personal honesty that has seen him document his life with toothcomb intimacy.
Evolution is a slow process. People often forget it took millions of years for us to develop features like fingers, that can now be used to operate vending machines and swipe the screens of smartphones. It’s also easy forget how long Wiley has been in the game.The title of his most recent album – his third solo LP in the past twelve months, ‘Evolve Or Be Extinct’ – might prompt some to point out that it is not much of a step forward.
A haphazard, sometimes ridiculous, but often impressively inventive new set. Noel Gardner 2012 Grime elder statesman Wiley’s status in British music is roughly equivalent to Joey Barton’s in football: both apparently revelling in their loose cannon status, since the mid-2000s they’ve bounced between labels/clubs in chaotic fashion. Anyone choosing to sign them does so in the knowledge that they’re acquiring a mercurial talent likely to squander people’s investment at any given time.