When JME raps ‘Wiley is a national treasure’ on ‘From The Outside’ it’s more than just an empty platitude. Wiley pretty much invented the grime genre. So any new project is welcomed with open arms. Wiley’s tenth album ‘Snakes & Ladders’ is a step back from the pop tunes that earned him chart success and a reintroduction to the unashamedly grimy music he is known for.
Over the course of his 10 albums we have heard the definitive Wiley album somewhere among 2006’s ‘Da 2Nd Phase’, 2012’s ‘It’s All Fun And Games’ mixtapes and various snippets and leaks over the years. However what the fans want for Wiley, is never what Wiley wants for Wiley. From inventing the controversial ‘one line flow’ to creating shameless pop songs that allowed him to crossover, public opinion rarely factors into the direction of Wiley’s music. His albums tend to be either sugary sweet pop or straight grime affairs. The further Wiley gets into his career a pattern emerges. He makes the music he wants, and occasionally drops a crossover hit when he feels. ‘Snakes & Ladders’ has no entry point for the mainstream and is proud of it. Songs Like ‘Drive by’ with Flirta D are about as grime as it gets. There’s no verse from Flirta just his trademark sound effects that are pretty baffling to anyone who doesn’t have an intimate knowledge of the scene. The album is more concerned with representing the genre as opposed to elevating it.
The instrumentals lack the excitement and progressive nature of Wiley’s own production. But this just allows Wiley to focus on content as opposed to just riding the beat. This is grime in its purest form, similar to classic hip hop. Wiley’s focus rarely strays from grime being the topic of discussion. Whether it’s how his partner feels about him constantly being in the studio on ‘Busy’ to his feelings on hearing his peers rap on ‘Bad Man’ the entire project is an ode to grime music, and isn’t ashamed of any part of it. There are a few US appearances that don’t make as much sense on a project that so whole-heartedly fly’s the flag for grime, but this doesn’t interfere with the feel of the album. ‘Snakes & Ladders’ is the definitive grime experience.