WILEY – Cleaning Up His Act

Wiley might have a new album to plug, but on his first Australian visit he’s more interested in dropping science on the unearthed Eski-culture of Grime.

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WILEY interviewed December 11, 2008
For Street Press Australia

While its roots lay soiled in with garage music in the United Kingdom, the culture of grime fuses elements of house and trance with the jaws of hip hop biting the beats. Wiley the Grime Kid has furthered the movement again by developing the ‘Eskimo’ genre, which branches away from the garage blueprint and digs into much heavier layered beats with venomous lyrics applied.

He’s determined to spread this culture through the world, and his latest album See Clear Nowhas the right amount of commercial sheen to aid his quest. When quizzed on whether the title refers to him reaching the summit of his success and having the clarity to dictate his own artistic direction, he opens up on a personal side.

“I was clownin’ with everything I was doin’,” Wiley confesses down the line from Perth straight off a plane from Singapore. “But when I stepped out of it and spent time with my children, I realised what I’m on Earth for. This is who I am, what I do and I have gotta do it.”

With this enlightenment, the clarity of reason behind the motives of this album becomes more apparent – it shows just how accurate his aim at tailoring to the pop market has been. A legend in the pirate radio underground, Wiley made the conscious effort to billboard his Eski brand by shapeshifting to suit the mainstream demand. For one thing he pulled in Mark Ronson to produce the project, an undeniably shrewd move given the cred points currently dripping off the producer.

See Clear Now has a real crisp sonic bite – layered with electro pop and dense hip hop beats, the aftertaste is a party. With overtones of late 80s fashion in swing, the timing was Swiss, with the disco kids and the hats-to-the-back crowd now biting these throwback bickies and nodding for hip hop. It is however the gateway drug to the true Eski-sound he has crafted over the years, and Wiley is here to hand out the sample bag of that dope East End upper – spreading the gospel of grime so to speak.

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“Obviously Grime is quite harsh and it’s underground. Like, we can flip it in different ways. I think eventually it will get there. It will get there as long as good songs are coming from it, well thought out and have a strong chance of charting,” Wiley predicts. “There is only so long you can stay in the UK for, drum’n’bass people are all over the world. The innovators and groove riders have to go around the world and they give their fans what they want. That’s what we really haven’t done properly. It’s only Dizzee Rascal who has been everywhere. If we were using our brains ages ago we may have been a lot further. We are still gonna do it, however we should have done it earlier. At least I woke up before I was 30 and got myself together.”

The Eskiboy kid from the E3 Bow section of East London – home of the ‘Wilehouse’ – realises this latest album will not garner the usual back-patting from his legion back home, but part of his maturity has seen him transcend trying to appease the voice of his breeding ground. “The grime kids don’t want it, but it doesn’t matter because I’ve done a lot for grime anyway,” Wiley says, adding further justification for his new found poppy direction. “[Grime kids] moan but I have two children so I can’t worry about that. The truth is I’ve got a lot of grime music I want to showcase, but because this album is current I have to perform and show them also that I do grime – to show I am not one-dimensional. I’d rather put vocals to a rock band.”

Album track ‘Ca$h In My Pocket’ saw Wiley employ the services of Daniel Merriweather on the hook with producer Mark Ronson behind the boards, and the result beautifully blends the heavy Eski routine into lighter dance. “I thought that song with Daniel Merriweather was something different.

“Yeah I thought that song with Daniel Merriweather did a good job. So when I heard that outfit I thought it was something different for me. It got a vibe from me, a vibe from him and Ronson. So that was a good thing. I think it will be good mainstream over here.” Also ‘Wearing My Rolex’ produced by Bless Beats also relaxed the format of grime to become a chart smash across the UK. Both singles fly in the face of defiance and throw one up to the supposed cash-crisis we’re in.

The title track ‘See Clear Now’ makes for a very smooth, almost radio-friendly posse cut featuring Kano and Scorcher. The pulsing synths are primed for club rotation. The sidewalk-scorcher off the album, “Summertime” with Jake Gosling behind the boards is very sample heavy but still manages to capture the feel-good blueprint suitable for this hot-ass January heat in Australia.

Wiley reminisced down the paths he took opening his production CV with UKG’s ‘Nicole Groove’ and his influence with Pay As U Go Cartel, Boy Better Know and as a founding member of MOBO accredited posse, Roll Deep since 2002 – a platform he took alongside Dizzee Rascal to harness the talents he bears today. He is a man who stands today with the utmost respect from his peers and fans alike. No matter the dips and turns he makes to earn his way, he will always be the premier Eskiboy.

Our talk rallied back and forth on topics over his gig at Glastonbury. With great enthusiasm in his voice, Wiley remarked on his time in the line-up with Hot Chip, “I saw Hot Chip not long ago, cuz they blessed me on the Glastonbury thing. I saw Hot Chip and Alexis said they’d next year they’d bring me again. So that’s really good.” He continued, “This was a very big step up, i’ve never performed before that many people before”. We chuckled over the antics of Noel Gallagher of Oasis and public spat he had with Jay-Z during the late Glastonbury festival.

“No I like Noel Gallagher, I like both of them. But Noel Gallagher, he is so funny. You know what he does when they wanna do a press conference? He just walks off” he snickers. “He doesn’t wanna do it! And the moment they try to stop he just walks off… It is so funny.” Also amid various sources declaring the origin of his stage name, straight from the emcee’s mouth It is indeed from the Thundercats cartoon character, ‘Wiley Cat.’ It was only 20 minutes, never enough time to capture the importance of this man who carries a generation-strong following upon his shoulders.

Before the timer rattled, he dropped the 411 on other irons in the fire once the touring wraps up. His next album, Race Against Time is set to surmise his career-cause for the Eski-beat community. Kept keen, Wiley quips about delivering his next album, “I want the momentum to keep going.“

“‘Race Against Time’ is a true Grime album, a representation of everything i’ve been through from the start to this day. ‘See Clear Now’ is the commercial album for the masses.”

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