The Streets: Michael Schmelling/Retna
Tom Sinclair
May 21, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

A Grand Don't Come For Free

Current Status
In Season
The Streets
Atlantic, Vice Records

We gave it a B

That the Streets — the nom de rap of British recording artist Mike Skinner — has zero street cred is no surprise. To listeners accustomed to American rap’s bombast, boasts, and bling bling, Skinner’s Tinkertoy beats and po’-mouthed rhymes must seem slight indeed. A Grand Don’t Come for Free, the follow-up to Skinner’s acclaimed debut, 2002’s ”Original Pirate Material,” isn’t likely to convert, say, your average Jay-Z fan. It sounds like it was recorded in a bedroom by a kid with too much free time — which it pretty much was. Spinning tales ripped from the minutiae of his life (subjects include gambling, drinking, and fighting with a girlfriend), Skinner is like an unabashed, fuzzy-minded slacker. ”All I seem to do is sit in this habitat/Just roachin’ a spliff, watchin’ the TV, and that,” he rap-mutters on ”I Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way.” Yet it works, and even seems refreshingly exotic (chalk it up to the dead-simple but catchy melodies and that Cockney-rap ”je ne sais quoi”). Skinner’s sketchily produced ditties may never be big in the hood, but his fans probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

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