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With its diverse origins in London’s garage, hip-hop, and dancehall scenes, grime is a genre that’s still very much fixed to the UK.  Its rhythmic cut and common time signatures juggle a constant tempo – usually no less than a feverish 140bpm – as its synths, sound effects, and sub-bass volts and slithers into every imaginable gap.

Enter Wiley, a decade-old icon specific to the genre and the innovator that coined its initial tag, “eskibeat.”  A man branded with a poison label after a few unfavorable happenings, he now seems nothing more than a focused insomniac; and his prolific, but not too larger-than-life persona has – well – “evolved.”  The latest product of that evolution is arguably one of his most cohesive collections to date – Evolve Or Be Extinct.

Throbbing synths occupy the album’s inaugural track, “The Door To Zion.”  Alone, this number is less-than-stellar, but lays the groundwork for the project’s grand scheme.  It’s in the album’s second track – the title song – that we see Wiley come out swinging over bouncy production that’s driven by dripping handclaps and a synth pad marathon.  The album’s first single, “Link Up,” is stamped by a hypnotic sub-bass and has the potential to be a major club hit, worldwide, as does the enticing house-number that precedes it, “Boom Blast.”

The humor and “wow” moments of songs like “Skanking”; “I’m a Weirdo,” and “Can I Have a Taxi Please?” establish a fun tone that Wiley carries throughout most of the album.  An artist that’s not so serious that he can’t connect with his audience, he even takes out a little time to mock his own notoriety – or lack there of on “I’m a Weirdo.”  The Mark Pritchard-produced numbers–the halfstep incremental “Scar” and the slick “Money Man”– feature nostalgic, Nintendo-like production stacked with sound effects galore, sub-bass, and otherworldly synths.  “Miss You” is soca-infused song, bittersweet with hurt and longing; its basic rhythm and catchy melody are the polar opposite to every track that fences it.

“But my life’s running out, we don’t live forever, however, my music can live forever…”

Creating dance crazes that’ll have East London practicing flips in their bedroom mirrors, nationwide, a more evolved Wiley has delivered an exceptional work with his second release in well less than a year.  This album may not appeal to some (especially those heads looking strictly for lyricism and weighty content).  However, fans of both grime and dubstep will undoubtedly enjoy this offering, and most notably:  Wiley’s evolution.

-Julius Thompson

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