I remember when it was all fields round here. Nothing standing for miles around, save us, Tangents, Stolen Kisses and Kitten Painting. But even then, Wiley seemed to release about 30 albums and mixtapes a month.
Some of you will remember how he dominated these pages around 2003-2005, especially. The thing is, we *never* fell out of love with the Grand-duke of Eski’s manic energy, positive attitude and extreme work ethic: we just never had the time to keep up with his relentless release schedule, churning out dozens of tracks at a time. Then, this summer, in order to launch his new “Chasing The Art” sub-label, Wiley announced, in a reasonable contender for the most welcome tweet ever: “For the next 8 weeks I am releasing 1 single a week.”
Like you, we were slightly surprised he hadn’t already done that, but it still knocks even David Gedge’s 1992 single a month conceit into the proverbial cocked hat. And we loved it, because it was simple and instant, and only required three minutes a week to investigate, and then if you liked the singles, there was plenty of time to put them on loop.
Obviously, Wiley being Wiley, he couldn’t quite limit himself to just the 8 singles, so as a prelude he issued another one, “Chasing The Art” (a Heavytrackerz joint) on the parent label, on which he tells us about the concept behind the sub-label (remember, this is how Wiley communicates with his public: issuing whole songs as broadcasts, when others might think that a press release or a solitary tweet sufficed). And even in the midst of the eight-week run proper, he managed to team up with Cadell – this time on the latter’s own imprint - for yet another single, “Fair And Square”, which was billed as Cadell x Wiley, but quite blatantly most of it is Wiley, so it should really have been Wiley x Cadell (yes, one incontrovertible truth highlighted by many of this year’s most rewarding singles is that “x” is the new “vs.”) *And* he also apparently changed his mind about which eight singles to release even after he’d started releasing them, because a couple of the tunes listed on the original flyer never appeared, no doubt overtaken by his sheer fondness for the thrill of the new, their replacements cooked up from scratch in precious minutes of studio downtime.
Anyway. Apparently our long-winded style is no longer welcome in this social media-shackled age. So we’ll keep this bit short(ish). “Wickedest MC” (unusually, one of only two self-produced singles from the eight) and “Send Me The Riddim”, a Teeza production which pays reasonable hommage to Wiley’s beatmaking style, are the tunes you need to hear first: both fair crackle with his breathless, ferocious non-stop rhymes expounding E3 philosophy, with the former containing a feisty a cappella drop out which makes us realise how much we could do with more raw, pure vocal freestyles full stop. The effervescent, Teeza-helmed “Lost Property” is not far behind; nor is Swifta Beater’s “25 MCs”, which takes things a little more slowly (though remember, this is relative) and sees Wiley memorably rhyme ‘Skepta’ with “clapped-out Vectra”. The final single, “Outchea” - a "Gertcha" for the 2010s, surely - even features one Maniac at the controls (long time no hear, though with very good reason).
The handful of guest MC spots vary in success: Flowdan and Scratchy both provide killer stanzas on Wiley’s other production job, “Cypress Hill”, but the single with (and produced by) JME, "Gotta Be Strong", is the one that most seems to lack a sense of purpose (almost as if they thought having Jamie A and Wiley on the track was enough in itself, although to be fair it usually is). And “Shredded Wheat” and “Fair And Square”, which came out within days if not hours of each other, are certainly good companions, as JB Priestley might have had it, but Cadell can’t quite match his exhilarating bars on the new Merky Ace EP.
Overall, though, the quality of this summer blitz of singles from this great survivor, the Bobby Wratten of grime, is better than we could sensibly have hoped for. It’s not just about the delivery, either, as the lyrical themes remain as “can-do” constructive as ever: a bit like Ice-T (albeit in days of yore, and an ocean away), you just know that if only the kids would all listen to him, the kids would be all right. And if you’re more of a “one click” merchant, rather than download all the CTA singles separately you can, as of this week, find them all (the whole Bow-pourri, ha) on “#8”, Wiley’s equivalent of the Wedding Present’s “Hit Parade” volumes.
It seems strange, in a way, that even now new releases from Wiley provide us with a bridge between today and those halcyon years of early Fortuna Pop! 7”s through the letterbox, an active Shinkansen roster, and our fledgling website, but we’re ever-grateful for such sentimental baggage, as well as for the mighty beats.
But if we return (with becoming reluctance) to the present, maybe the most exciting thing of all is this. As good – even great - as some of these singles are, none of them are as dandy as a few other artists' grime singles from 2015 so far. My goodness, there have been some bangers, many gracing 12” vinyl. But we won’t bore you further, don’t worry. Those - for now - are for us to know about and enjoy, and for you to discover for yourselves.