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albums and tracks
Wiley - Race Against Time
Emerging from the Roll Deep crew in 2004, Wiley was the tough, street-smart counterpoint to Mercury-winning fellow grimester Dizzee Rascal. Recognition was harder to come by, despite the thrills of debut album Treddin' On Thin Ice, and after years of plugging away it took pop crossovers 'Wearing My Rolex' and 'Summertime' to make Wiley a name to remember.
With Dizzee taking a similar populist path to chart success - anyone who denies 'Bonkers' is a novelty can obviously see the intellectual rigour in the Fast Food Rockers' back catalogue - it's time to ask whether a softened stance is the only way grime can last in the mainstream.
Wiley's response is, "Let's see". Race Against Time is uncompromising, all hard-nut spat raps, harsh synths and razor beats - in short, everything that made his name on the underground scene. "If anybody asks, I'm back with a brand new team/With a brand new dream," he snarls over the churning riffs of opener 'Headbanger', asserting a new direction - or reclaiming an old one.
'Hummer Activity' brims with menace - "You can't even hold that handgun steadily" - and 'Off Da Radar' is a show-us-yer-bling banger, trumpeting Wiley's "black attitude" to confident, witty effect.
The excellent, jumping title track faces down pretenders with "If you want to talk about albums/Do one first before you get lively," as Wiley shows his pedigree. The album teems with bravado, only making concessions to its new, wider audience with the call and response of 'The Olly' and the driving breakbeats of hilarious barnstomer 'Too Many Men' ("We need some more girls in here").
Otherwise, this is no sop to the charts. Instead it shows a man bold enough to reaffirm his identity and hang the consequences, forcing the public to come up with the answers.