Wiley – Evolve Or Be Extinct | Album Review

The rules to an artist’s survival in the music game have often varied. From having a never-give-up attitude to dropping material once every five years, maintaining a career in the industry is the prerogative for many and the strategy to achieving this are far from concrete. For the Grime and Eskibeat pioneer Wiley, musical evolution has been key to his prolonged music life.

From Jungle to Garage to Grime, even dabbling (controversially) in Electro, the underground don has crafted a musical timeline which many upstart emcees have studied and wish to emulate. Remaining relevant in any musical discussion for well over a decade, the mayor of Bow E3 drops yet another album Evolve Or Be Extinct – a title which not only acts as a fair warning to any progression reluctant spitter, but also as a banner embodying the reason for his ever extending music life.

Released on his 33rd birthday, Wileys latest endeavour reveals more of the emcee’s often documented persona and quirky characteristics. “Welcome To Zion” opens with the protagonist donning an ominous character, welcoming the veteran to the mysterious world of Zion. Mystique is definitely a theme which runs throughout, as the space-like warbles and darkened tones of “…Zion” provide the backdrop for Wiley to spit about more candid matters for the said track, as well as being the theme for most of the project.

In addition to the space exploring instrumentals, Richard Cowie also provides a different variety of verses; from his admissions about his odd behaviour on “Weirdo,” to the left of centre musings on “Scar”. Wiley’s character explorations go further on the conceptual “Can I Have A Taxi Please,” pulling on a number of various flows and voices (including one similar to The StreetsMike Skinner) to play out the differing taxicab scenarios.

The shift in direction, from the undiluted Grime surroundings to the distorted offerings which a rapper like Roots Manuva might be found engaged with, are hit-and-miss as whilst production passes, the lyrical performances at times are questionable. However, Wiley’s 22-track offering would never go without some material closer to home and the tracks which operate on 140 grime street are the standout ones.

Wiley – “Link Up”:

The title track is an appeasing combination of skippy production and Wiley going into tunnel vision with hard hitting bars. Lead singles “Link Up” and “Boom Blast” manage to capture the Grime vibes, regardless of their made-for-the-dancefloor/radio blueprint.

For an artist who has seen the best and worst of feuds in the game, the Eskiboy is assertive when addressing the issues on tracks “Life At Sea” and “No Love Lost,” handling the potentially explosive topics with a maturity expected for a respected legend.

Undeniably still the master of his craft, Wiley’s Evolve Or Be Extinct is a matured effort, which expands on his musical dexterity which covers numerous underground genres. Off the wall productions and an experimental approach highlight the full intention of the emcee’s evolved state; choosing to move his own product forward rather than the genre as a whole. Although having a number of flows on hand to both excite and disappoint, Wiley’s balancing act between beats and bars is eventually met; with one of the most revered musicians to emerge from the UK creating another solid project and clearly declaring that he is in a league of his own.

Wiley – Evolve Or Be Extinct
Released: January 19, 2012
Label: Big Dada
Purchase: iTunes UK / iTunes US / Amazon UK

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