English rapper and songwriter Wiley (dubbed as the “Godfather of Grime” and Roll Deep founder) has returned with his ninth studio album The Ascent, putting his spin on the grime genre once again.
This album features several artists, most of whom are also British. Among those featured are Tulisa, Tinchy Stryder and the LA-based group Far East Movement.
Although his vocals aren’t diverse, Wiley chose his entourage astutely to enrich each track in his unique style where verse flows into the chorus effortlessly and the lyrics are bridge free. Wiley wrote all the lyrics with most tracks co-written by various artists. The lyrical content is typical rap: either about how hard his life had been before reaching stardom, failed relationships, or how much of a hardcore party maniac he is. Despite this, the sound is complex and his grime background clearly lays the foundation for this album. His Caribbean background is subtly incorporated into the album to add diversity to the tracks without tainting the overall feel of the album. The tracks contain a greater electronic influence to make it current and fresh without spoiling the authentic Wiley sound.
The opening track’s dynamics prepares you for what’s to follow by mixing classical instruments and electronics with a lyrical tale about his road to fame.
The rest of the album is sequenced to generate an intriguing flow between Wiley’s gruff voice, house tunes, big bass beats and quality dance songs.
One track in particular where his gravelly vocals complement the music is “Ninja”, though it seems wasted as it is a bonus track.
“My Heart” (featuring Emeli Sandé and French Montana) is the track with the most prominent house beat on the album and it takes audiences back to the grime veteran’s early days of making garage music in the early 2000s.
Three tracks have been released from the album. “Heatwave”, featuring Ms D, was released as the lead single, debuting at number one on the UK Singles Chart in August last year and became his first number one solo ever, selling 114 000 copies in the first week. “Can You Hear Me? (Ayayaya)”, featuring Skepta, JME and Ms D, was released as the second single in October last year, reaching number one on the UK Dance Chart. In February this year, “Reload”, featuring Chip and Ms D, was released, peaking at number nine on the UK Singles Chart.
The album was originally released as a 13-track album, but was re-released as a deluxe edition containing three bonus tracks, three music videos and a behind-the-scenes documentary.
If the grime scene is your thing, or you’re a Wiley fan, or if you just want to pump a few gangster dance tunes every so often, then this album is a worthy investment.