Skepta 'Konnichiwa' review

Henry Lewis reviews the long-awaited release from the Boy Better Know co-founder.

Jimmy Coultas

Last updated: 9th May 2016.
Originally published: 6th May 2016

It may surprise you to learn that before this year, the last album release from Joseph Junior Adenuga, aka Skepta, was way back in 2012. It may also come as a shock that, 'That’s Not Me', the lead single off 2016’s Konnichiwa, was released almost two years ago.

With 2015 seemingly the year that grime well and truly found its place in the hearts and minds of a much larger proportion of the British youth, it’s strange to think that this is Skepta’s first release since the grime scene blew up.

It's an album that's been long awaited and in some ways it feels like Skepta's debut, rather than his fifth release and this is mainly attributed to the way 'That's Not Me' and 'Shutdown' propelled the MC into the fore.

Both appear here but there is plenty more on display from Skeppy to eliminate any doubts that grime may have just been a flash in the pan thing. If anything, the fire in the pot is burning fiercely as the Boy Better Know chief plans world domination.

The album's title track opens with the sound of sinister Liquid Swords esque samurai slashes before Skepta rolls in over a dirty bassline. The track's opening hook could be the explanation behind the album's long overdue release; "By now you should know I hate waitin'/I got no patience/right now man are tryna get out the matrix/far from the agents" - and it's a frightening introduction. 

Lyrically Konnichiwa seems to indicate the logical next step for both Skepta and brother JME whose BBN label is set to branch out further and take grime to a whole new audience. The addition of Drake to the label is an enormous coup and this is something Skepta is unsurprisingly keen to mention.

Third track 'Corn On The Curb' is where Drake gets his name check with Skepta referencing the moment the Canadian rapper joined the BBK crew onstage at a Section Boyz gig. 

It's a momentous time for the label with Drake releasing his own album Views through BBK just last week. With sales of the rapper's album blitzing even Adele's astronomical figures, there'll be champagne corks popping when Konnichiwa inevitably performs well too. It is a surprise that he doesn't appear here though, especially given the amount of big names that Skepta has collaborated with on this album. 

Aside from those you would expect (Wiley, JME, Novelist) there are also appearances from Young L.O.R.D, D Double E and A$AP Nast who show up on singles 'It Ain't Safe' and 'Ladies Hit Squad'.

The latter is one of the album's standout tracks and funnily enough, the mob member's hook would not sound out of place on a Drake record. There is also plenty of room for the mandatory police sirens that blare out over the lengthy, lust filled verses that leave little to the imagination. 

The most surprising hook up is the Pharrell produced 'Numbers', which shows no end to the hit maker's skills not only on the mic but also behind the mixing desk. The song's count in is distinctively Pharrell and is a grimier continuation of the work P did on Snoop Dogg's Bush.

While 'Shutdown' and 'That's Not Me' feel like they have been around forever, they still sound as fresh as they did way back when with those definitive lyrical hooks that prompted trigger fingers across the nation.

Closing track 'Text Me Back' is the one that will most likely take the place of those two powerhouse singles. It is instantly memorable and it's lyrics are further proof that grime has the right to be the dominating musical force of the 21st century. Here, Skepta mentions Tinder in one of his verses yet still sounds authentic and this just simply wouldn't happen in any other genre.

It may have had a few false starts but Konnichiwa has come at exactly the right time. It's a reminder of what Skepta has done for grime, yet looks to the future with an almost businessman like incisiveness. The boy done good and you better know it.  

Check out Skepta's upcoming gigs.

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