The bold, yet enigmatic Skepta is not here for public entertainment: The cold and calculated Boy Better Know (BBK) wordsmith selectively jaunts his musical skills and appearances. Since the end of his five-year studio hiatus with his 2016 backbreaker Konnichiwa, Skepta’s only notable features include ripping verses on “Put That on My Set” off of A$AP Mob’s first Cozy Tapes installment and Wiley’s “U Were Always, Pt. 2.” Oh yeah, and let’s not forget that little (but insanely fiery) thing the did for Drake’s More Life playlist (the appropriately-titled “Skepta’s Interlude”).
After teasing new music through social media, Skepta has released Vicious EP, a ghoulish six-track project. Skepta’s prowess as one of the best international rappers is sprinkled throughout the lyrically-focused collection, as he makes claims about American and British music, warns his competition and even references Kanye West. The auditory elements continue to follow Grime’s blueprint of alternatively intense patterns that dedicated fans hold dear.
At times, Skepta seems to regurgitate past narratives on this project, such as relationships with online media and people questioning his life choices. However, Skepta cleverly disguises these messages with fresh analogies and metaphors. On “Hypocrisy,” Skepta directs his attention towards those who recently bashed his fashion style. Skepta raps “See them online, they’re vexing/ They see the shirt I’m flexing … Nah, we are so not equal/ Them man are cloning people.”
One of the most underrated designations of Skepta’s music is his production style. Skepta is one of the few successful rappers who produces his own beats as well. The introduction “Still” is a track with maximized production at the core while managing to keep simplistic patterns intact. Chopped-up Childish Gambino-esque chimes and heavy maracas quickly lead into motivated trap drums, a sinister orchestral mix and a burly Dev Hynes (better known as Blood Orange)-assisted bassline.
The project is evenly divided between three solo tracks and three tracks with features as A$AP Rocky, A$AP Nast, Lil B and the members of Section Boyz all make loud appearances. Instead of singular dominance on the shared tracks, Skepta leaves behind rudimentary bars for artful pitter-patter that accents his guest’s features while not failing to give them their space to deliver nasty words.
To all fans of Skepta, it is wonderful to see and hear the man bringing the heat on a commercial release. However, one can never count out another long amount of time with no new Skepta. While this project affirms that Skepta is still relevant and hungrier than ever, the fear that this will be the only thing he releases in the near future grows imminent. Let’s all just hope that he doesn’t go away for too long.