A crossover star in the making, Skepta exposes London’s grime underground to the States | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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A crossover star in the making, Skepta exposes London’s grime underground to the States

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When a superstar rapper teams with an up-and-comer it has the potential to obscure what the latter has already built. So now that Kanye and Drake have taken interest in grime artist Skepta these past couple years, the stateside pop fan might not care as much about the reemergence of the genre as it pertains to its native U.K. In the early 2000s grime grew out of pirate radio stations that illegally flooded London’s airwaves with the sounds of jungle and garage, with DJs inviting tag teams of MCs to rap atop hard-edged, 140-BPM electronic instrumentals. Despite early international acclaim for Dizzee Rascal and the relative success of Wiley, grime largely faded from the mainstream, instead bulking up in the underground and returning as an irrepressible culture. Skepta, who dropped his first solo mixtape in 2006, was far from wet behind the ears prior to this come-up—and far from the only MC who bolstered grime’s reputation—but his remarkable magnetism sets him apart. On last year’s Konnichiwa (Boy Better Know) he smoothes over Lego-rigid instrumentals with a fluidity that retains an ice-cold punch.   v

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