A Grand Don't Come for Free (2004) That the Streets -- the nom de rap of British recording artist Mike Skinner -- has zero street cred is no surprise. To listeners accustomed… 2004-05-18 The Streets Hip-Hop/Rap
Music Review

A Grand Don't Come for Free (2004)

The Streets | STREETS SMARTS Skinner's rap style is a breath of fresh air
Image credit: The Streets: Michael Schmelling/Retna
STREETS SMARTS Skinner's rap style is a breath of fresh air
EW's GRADE
B

Details Release Date: May 18, 2004; Lead Performance: The Streets; Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

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.

Originally posted May 21, 2004 Published in issue #766 May 21, 2004 Order article reprints