A household name for any fan of the grime genre, Wiley is a pioneer and driving force behind breaking the style into the mainstream - it’s no wonder he’s nicknamed ‘the godfather’. Although perhaps Richard Cowie’s reigning title should instead be ‘the founding father’, as without him, grime wouldn’t even exist as it does today. With his own crafted ‘eski’ beats becoming a staple sound within any grime track, in the early days of his career he was referred to as ‘eskiboy’ and along with a long list of others, fellow rapper Kano celebrates the artist within his own music when he asks, ‘Who put the ‘eski’ in Eskimo?’ With a ridiculously extensive back catalogue of fire flows and the coldest of beats, Wiley’s been killing it since his beginnings as part of garage collective Pay As U Go Cartel in the early noughties, and so picking only five tracks to celebrate this emceeing genius is not an easy task. Still, we gave it a good go.
Heatwave ft. Ms D
Released in July 2012, this track became a summer anthem and secured Cowie’s rightful spot in the mainstream charts as it signaled his first number one solo single. Selling over 100,000 copies within the first week alone, not only was this surely a monumental affair for the artist, but it was also a significant moment for grime as a whole, as the talent behind the genre was gaining the recognition it deserved.
Wearing My Rolex
Even if you’re not familiar with Wiley’s signature sound, it’d be pretty difficult to have avoided this song altogether as it also completely dominated the charts. Although it didn’t quite make the number one spot, the electro and grime combined track stayed in the top 100 for an impressive 22 weeks, proving what a banger it is. Released almost a decade ago and it’s still sounding fresh as the day it dropped.
Name Brand ft. Frisco, JME & J2K
Earlier this year saw the release of The Godfather, Wiley’s seminal record that addresses his deserved title, offering out bars that scold and stick with you. Single ‘Name Brand’ takes it one step further, highlighting the notoriety of his namesake comparing his name to worldwide renowned brands, Wiley brings in friend and collaborator JME as well as Frisco and J2K to really pack a punch in the lyric delivery.
On a Level
Once again Wiley is letting the world know just exactly who he is. ‘For years I’ve been picking up a mic and spitting’ - and boy better know, does it show, as his speedy delivery and multi syllabic rhymes are solid evidence of the years of graft behind this emceeing legend. If you’re clued up on your grime history, you’ll also notice there’s also a cheeky reference to Roll Deep, the grime collective founded by the godfather himself.
First Class ft. Kano & Lethal Bizzle
What could possibly be better than a ridiculously skilled emcee spitting over the dirtiest of beats? Having three of them seems to do the trick. Kano and Lethal B join in for this single taken from his 2013 record The Ascent, which also included track ‘The Heatwave’. Wiley without a doubt brought in the right guys for the elocution of the song, each offering varying styles but all having the consistency in absolutely killing it.
If you like what you hear, you can catch the grime hero live at a number of dates, he’s at Outlook Festival in Croatia and Lulworth Castle’s Bestival, which both take place between 7th - 11th September and he’ll also be headlining night three of Beacons Metro at Canal Mills in Leeds, on Saturday 4th November.
Image courtesy of SJM