Treddin on Thin Ice
Snobs call grime "PlayStation garage," but if they were smart, grime producers would turn this from a diss into a badge of honor. (Instead they'll probably go all "musical"—read: lite jazz—like jungle and 2-step.) Grime auteur Wiley, mentor of Dizzee Rascal, molds those underwater ripples, power-up chings, and end-level chongs into furious stabs and queerly haunting melodies on Treddin. He also finds new shapes for his haughty, imperious flow, from love-struck sly wit ("Special Girl") to self-help anthem ("Pick Yourself Up") to outright silliness ("Goin Mad"). It's an auspicious debut, funnier and more accomplished, if not as startling, as Dizzee's.
Lord of the Decks: Fellowship of the Mic Pt. 2
Hosted by rubber-voiced ragga man Durty Doogz, this semiprofessional mixtape is the closest grime will probably see to an "official" compilation anytime soon, with an underground so simultaneously suspicious of attention and hungry for success. Weird, wired, unclassifiable tracks by Doogz ("Can't Hold Me Down") and Crazy Titch are somewhat undercut by retreats to retrograde Brit-rap on Sharkie Major's "Ghetto" and DM's "Bronx Tale." (Funny, I didn't know there was a Bronx in the U.K., too.) After the sucker-punch force with which garage announced its shocking NOW-ness, mediocre 1993 DJ Premier rips are kind of a disappointment. (On sale at www.uptownrecords.com.)
I wouldn't dare call the baldly (and inaccurately) titled Grime a cash-in move, since it's got nothing to do with the real thing, where there's little money to be made anyway. Call it "Croydon crunk": bleak, cement-slab dance music that can't escape the specters of IDM and drum and bass. Which is not to say it's not a lot of fun on its own terms, from MarkOne's hammers-on-a-ship's-hull breakcore to Plasticman's (not to be confused with Richie Hawtin's Plastikman) gearshift-skanking Neubauten garage.
Perhaps in response to grime, British rap has been stepping up its game lately, and this debut from Infinite Livez is the weirdest thing (with beats) you'll hear all year. Like El-P soundtracking Pee Wee's Playhouse, regular ol' rap and dancehall beats are slathered in molasses, corroded with acid (both kinds), and left out to dry like a prune in the sun. Meanwhile, sprites sing bush songs on the skits, and Mr. Livez raps about condiments before lactating into his girlfriend's mouth. File between Madvillain and the Residents.