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On Thursday (2 November), Wiley will release Eskiboy, his much-anticipated autobiography through Penguin Random House UK.

Covering groundbreaking grime white-labels, MC rivalries and his childhood in London – the 96-chapter book provides a rounded and candid portrait of the Eskimo innovator using lyrics, previously unseen photography, words from some of his closest friends and, of course, the first-hand retellings of Wiley himself.

In this exclusive extract, Wiley talks about the foundations of grime – framing his words around lyrics from his 2004 track Wot Do U Call It? which featured on the Treddin’ on Thin Ice LP. After the extract, get a sneak peek of a few personal photos included in the book.

28. Wot Do U Call It?

‘Goodbye to the man who don’t like me
Goodbye to the woman who don’t like me
Goodbye to the fingers pointing at me
Goodbye to the promoters that hate me
Goodbye to the people that’s hassling me
Cos I’m sharp like a knife on the street.’

– ‘Wot Do U Call It’

Grime is raw.

Grime started in the city. It started in the estates.

It started with people who didn’t really have much. We lived in one of the poorest boroughs in England. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up in a good area. It wasn’t no war zone. We were all brought up properly, we all went to school, we all grafted. But it was gritty. We had drug dealers, prostitutes, murderers on our doorstep. But we also had Canary Wharf. We had something to aim for. When you’ve got nothing, you have to strive.

Not all of us had happy family lives. Our world, back then, was almost like another world. It was like we were on another planet. Our parents, our elders, they had their lives, their struggles, of course, but it meant that we were kind of left to it. No one spoke for us. No one spoke to us. And I mean no one.

When it began it was an opportunity to talk about what we knew, what was happening to us, or around us. The sound came from our situation. It’s a cold, dark sound because we came from a cold, dark place. These are inner-city London streets. It’s gritty.

We tried to get into garage, which was big back then, but even the garage crews didn’t want us. Everyone I looked up to let me down. We had no one to look up to.

So we took what we had and we worked with it. Bits of jungle. Bits of ragga. Bits of garage. In the end we created something different.

You hear people talking about the grime sound coming from another planet? Well, that’s because it does.

When it started grime was a young black man’s punk rock. MCing is basically the same as singing in punk – shouting on a beat to get a reaction. The good thing is that grime is beginning to spread. The grime nationality is rudeboy, now. And anyone can be a rudeboy, you get me. It’s not just for black kids any more. It’s for everyone: black kids, white kids, Indian kids, Turkish kids, Moroccan kids. It’s a release.

Grime is a group thing. It’s music that can be passed down. It needs people. It needs energy. Raw beats, raw lyrics. I think that’s what’s so key to grime. Everyone can do it. A little kid in Blackpool can start spitting. He’s going through exactly the same things that every kid is going through, and he can talk about it. That’s how it works. And when he’s eighteen he may be doing something. There’s another grime kid being born as we speak.


Extracted from Eskiboy by Wiley, out in hardback on 2 November from William Heinemann. Preorder your copy.