Wiley Godfather Wiley UK
The beauty of Wiley’s music is that there’s so much of it to sift through; 11 studio albums, countless mixtapes, freestyles, remixes, rave recordings and radio sets that stretch back to the early 2000s. Despite the remarkable legacy, he’s found his mettle tested over the last two years, particularly given grime’s contemporary crossover appeal — spearheaded by a new generation of lyricists like Stormzy and conversely, the success of his others from his generation, most notably, Skepta. For years, his was often seen as one of grime’s dominant narratives, but as he admits on the opening throws of this new album, Wiley’s role is changing.
It feels fitting then, that his best album in some time is called Godfather, a title bestowed on him by the grime scene for over a decade. Over the years, Wiley’s music has also always been at its best when he’s had something to prove — and this album is no different. A master of flow, he excels on classic Wiley tracks like Speakerbox and the skittish, On This, which also features two of his former protégés — Ice Kid and Chip — as well as veteran, Little Dee. Their inclusion, as well as others like President T, P Money, Ghetts, Skepta and Scratchy, is indicative of Wiley’s mindset — he regularly shouts out new MCs he rates, but none make the track-listing here.
As the album moves through the gears — it does feel a bit exhaustive at 17 tracks — he does start taking shots at his doubters: “I walk in the place like everybody’s better than me … ummmm, pysch!” he jokes on Bait Face for example, clearly irked by having to play catch-up on some of his contemporaries. That said, it does feel like a more mature Wiley album too; old rivalries have been cast aside (Devlin) and he tackles a fair amount of earnest, self-reflection (Lucid, U Were Always, Pt 2).
All in all, Godfather does deliver as Wiley’s biggest statement in some time, but also as a symbolic passing of the baton — he’ll always be the best, but as he said in a recent interview with RWD, “I’m 37 now and I’m getting a stitch.”