You're Listening To The Streets


by Matthew Dixon

Mike Skinner Never before has there been anyone even remotely similar to Mike Skinner in the world of popular music. He has successfully brought urban music forward, kicking and screaming into the new millennium, and produced what must surely be the soundtrack to the youth of this new millennium. Well, at least to a fair number of them...

Mike Skinner performs under the name The Streets, and this is where his music has come from. He's not a rapper, but rather, an urban poet. His lyrics are amazing and look deeply into his life. There are several things that this shows, and analysis of his album is truly fascinating. "Brace yourself, 'cos this goes deep. I'll show you the secrets, the sky and the birds. Actions speak louder than words. Stand by me my apprentice," as we go through the life of the youth some people deny exists.

The first thing you instantly notice about The Streets music is that it's different - completely unlike anything else that has come before. This is exactly what he is aiming at. So just what is this new style of music? Garage? Hip-hop? Drum & bass? It really doesn't fit all that well in any of those genres. Will it sell records? Possibly in the UK, but it's not the sort of stuff the big record labels would really choose to take on.

Majors be vigilant. I excel in both content and deliverance. So let's put on our classics and we'll have a little dance, shall we? No sales pitch, no media hype. No hydro, it's nice and ripe.

This AIN'T yer archetypal street sound, scan for ultrasound, north, south, east, west and all round and then to the underground. But this ain't your typical garage joint, I make points which hold significance. That ain't a bag, it's shipment. This ain't a track, it's a movement. I got the settlement. My frequencies are transient and resonate your eardrums. I make bangers not anthems, leave that to the Artful Dodger.

"Let's Push Things Forward"

Clearly, he isn't trying to be pigeonholed into your archetypal two-step garage style, as the single "Let's Push Things Forward" shows admirably. Nor does he class it as dance music...

For this ain't a club track. Pull out yer sack and sit back.

"Has It Come To This?"

We seem to be given the picture that this new style of music is for sitting back and listening to, but is still the soundtrack to an evening.

So if clubbing isn't the craze that Mike is into with this music, what is it? When older adults think of the youth, they tend to think of a typical night's entertainment being spent in a club or at a pub. The people Mike is representing certainly enjoy going out drinking - often several times a week.

Who's round is it? Down that beer quick, smash my glass back down, fall over the table all rowdy and pissed. Seems the only difference between midweek s*** and weekend is how loud I speak and whether I try to pull a girlfriend. That's it, who's got dough? Hey, you know I'd pay but I'm broke, only got coinage to show. Putting off walking home on my own to my throne, two empty takeaways, ashtrays and remains of the day stoned. Pick a bottle off the table, peel the label, tell a fable. Offer opinion for free and a solution to the latest big news story. Football and smut daily as I ponder winning the lottery. Buy a drink, chat to a lady, the girl's well fit definitely, not maybe, she's rude I'd shag her and make tea right there.

"Same Old Thing"

This is very typical of the evenings of many of today's youth. Spend the night in a pub, drinking massive amounts of alcohol. After that, the next port of call is undoubtedly a fast food outlet, not necessarily renowned for its quality of food. There will likely be at least one person there who is far too drunk and all they want to do is fight. Those people who are not that drunk have the sense to just ignore the provocation, but if you get two people who are intent on a fight, then a nasty scene could ensue. Once again, Mike manages to explain this perfectly in poetry.

Out the club about three, to the take-away. The s***-in-a-tray merchants, shops got special penchant for the disorderly. Geezers looking ordinary and a few looking leery. Chips fly round the sound of the latest chart entry. An incendiary waiting to blast. No harm with the contest who can throw the furthest. Behind the counter they look nervous, but carry on cutting the finest cuts of chicken from the big spinning stick. Then over flies a chip, flips, and hits you on the back. You spin round on the attack. **** you playing at? He looks like a Cheshire cat, almost falls down. Your frowns and superman eye lasers don't even register. By now you want to leather this twat and forever you're gonna regret that, your choice of path. So mash his head up and your girl's now fed up, but stop to think and it's never gonna be the Jackie Chan scene it could have been. To end up geezers need excitement, if their lives don't provide them this they incite violence. Common sense simple common sense.

"Geezers Need Excitement"

That is, of course, one part of a two step food-orientated sobering up process. The place you find these people the following morning is invariably a cafe selling the largest fried breakfast imaginable.

A new day another morning after, leaning back on my chair in a greasy spoon cafeteria. Last night was some beer laryness done our way but again we're back in the light of day. Chatting s***, sitting at the wall table telling jokes playing with the salt, lookin' out the window. Girl brings two plates of full English over with plenty of scrambled eggs and plenty of fried tomato.

"Don't Mug Yourself"

Mike Skinner So it would appear we've worked out the typical night in the life of Mike Skinner and his followers. However, that's far from the case. In actual fact, this type of person is not to be seen as regularly as you might expect down at the pub. They have a completely different way of enjoying an evening - it doesn't involve getting drunk, doesn't give you a hangover, and is a good deal cheaper than a night out.

It would be completely stupid to try and review the music and lyrically expressed views of Mike Skinner while skirting around the main issue. What does this type of youth do on an evening? Stays up all night, watches TV or plays on a games console while passing around a "joint" of cannabis (aka weed).

Sit back in yer throne, turn off yer phone cos this is our zone. Videos, televisions, 64's, Playstations. We're paring with precision. Few herbs and a bit of Benson but don't forget the Rizla. Lean like the Tower of Pisa. Liza, I'll raise yer, and this is the day in the life of a geezer.

"Has It Come To This?"

Obviously, doing so is illegal, but the law is currently under some debate on the matter. Mike makes his position on this very clear.

For this ain't a club track. Pull out yer sack and sit back. Whether you white or black, smoke weed, chase brown or toot rock. We're on a mission, support the cause, sign a petition, summon all your wisdom.

"Has It Come To This?"

On his debut album, Mike Skinner quite clearly lays down the arguments for legalising cannabis, best shown in "The Irony Of It All". Have a read of the lyrics and think - is it really right that smoking cannabis in the home (however stupid it might seem) should actually be against the law?

Terry: Hello, hello. My name's Terry and I'm a law abider
There's nothing I like more than getting fired up on beer
And when the weekend's here
I too exercise my right to get paralytic and fight good bloke fairly
But I get well leery when geezers look at me funny
Bounce 'em round like bunnies
I'm likely to cause mischief
Good clean grief you must believe and I ain't no thief
Law abiding and all, all legal
And who cares about my liver when it feels good
What you need is some real manhood
Rasher Rasher Barney and Kasha putting people's backs up
Public disorder, I'll give you public disorder
I down eight pints and run all over the place
Spit in the face of an officer
See if that bothers you 'cos I never broke a law in my life
Someday I'm gonna settle down with a wife
Come on lads let's have another fight

Tim: Eh hello. My name's Tim and I'm a criminal
In the eyes of society I need to be in jail
For the choice of herbs I inhale
This ain't no wholesale operation
Just a few eighths and some Playstation's my vocation
I pose a threat to the nation
And down the station the police hold no patients
Let's talk space and time
I like to get deep sometimes and think about Einstein
And Carl Jung and old Kung Fu movies I like to see
Pass the hydrator please
Yeah I'm floating on thin air
Going to Amsterdam in the new year, top gear there
'Cos I take pride in my hobby
Home made bongs using my engineering degree
Dear Leaders, please legalise weed for these reasons

Terry: Like I was saying to him
I told him, "Top with me and you won't leave"
So I smacked him in the head and downed another Carling
Bada bada bing for the lads' night
Mad fight, his face is a sad sight
Vodka and snake bite
Going on like a right geez, he's a twat
Shouldn't have looked at me like that
Anyway I'm an upstanding citizen
If a war came along I'd be on the front line with 'em
Can't stand crime either them hooligans on heroin
Drugs and criminals
Those thugs on the penny coloured will be the downfall of society
I've got all the anger pent up inside of me

Tim: You know I don't see why I should be the criminal
How can something with no recorded fatalities be illegal
And how many deaths are there per year from alcohol
I just completed Gran Turismo on the hardest setting
We pose no threat on my settee
Ooh the pizza's here will someone let him in please
We didn't order chicken, not a problem we'll pick it out
I doubt they meant to mess us about
After all we're all adults not louts
As I was saying, we're friendly peaceful people
We're not the ones out there causing trouble
We just sit in this hazy bubble with our quarters
Discussing how beautiful Gail Porter is
MTV, BBC 2, Channel 4 is on until six in the morning
Then at six in the morning the sun dawns and it's my bedtime

Terry: Causing trouble, your stinking rabble
Boys saying I'm the lad who's spoiling it
You're on drugs it really bugs me when people try and tell me I'm a thug
Just for getting drunk
I like getting drunk
'Cos I'm an upstanding citizen
If a war came along I'd be on the front line with 'em.

Tim: Now Terry you're repeating yourself
But that's OK drunk people can't help that
A chemical reaction inside your brain
Causes you to forget what you're saying

Terry: What? I know exactly what I'm saying
I'm perfectly sane
You stinking student lameo
Go get a job and stop robbing us of our taxes

Tim: Er, well actually according to research
Government funding for further education pales in insignificance
When compared to how much they spend on repairing
Leery drunk people at the weekend
In casualty wards all over the land

Terry: Why you cheeky little swine come here
I'm gonna batter you, come here

Cannabis is a drug, an addictive drug. However, the smoking of cannabis in the home actually does less harm to the person concerned and the general public than alcohol consumption. Mike has put forward the case on this album for the drug to be legalised, rather like it is in Holland.

Smell of good earthy herbs makes my nerves shudder, but where were you that cold December, 'cos we were in the Grasshopper spending Guilders. Central station, charged up like Scarface, Amsterdam ain't a nice place off your face, we enter the race, walk down, been there before, done that, no joy, if you're bored, let's go see Roy, get ****ed up with the boys. Calvin, Schmalvin, I'm well within my limit, oh hang on a minute, these mushrooms just kicked in, think I might be finished. The ball game heads for the worse, for what it's worth I might just fall off the edge of the earth, brain's kind of surfing now. We wander down darkened pathways in a daze, "Want to buy any cocaine?" Am I paranoid? "Yes, you're paranoid". Charlie, darling, please save me, this is raving, take me home to my baby, two bags of mushrooms, room's mushed up and I need a cradle. In its own little way, my body was trying to say that you better stop drinking brandy.

"Too Much Brandy"

However, some of his ideas do seem a little far-fetched. It is evident that large parts of this album were written at a time when Mike himself was completely stoned, and came up with some rather odd ideas.

They could settle wars with this. If only they will imagine the world's leaders on pills then imagine the mornin' after.

"Weak Become Heroes"

Anyway, in my opinion, the music brought to us by Mike Skinner's The Streets project is both new and thought-provoking. I know many people who can relate exactly to the lyrics of a number of the songs, both regarding nights out and nights in, and he has truly captured the spirit of such times perfectly. The music is refreshing, and is some of the first brand new music this millennium has had to offer. I leave you with some thoughts from the man himself:

You say that everything sounds the same, then you go buy them! There's no excuses my friend - let's push things forward.

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SITE: The Streets Official Website