British hip hop is something that not everybody gets. To a lot of Americans, it's not even something that exists. For some reason people find it hard to take an English accent seriously when it's spitting rhymes. I can't say why this is, but I know this much: Mike Skinner, who is the one-man-band that is The Streets, is the epitome of this effect. Not making any attempt to sound tough or even vaguely from the streets, Skinner's rhymes are something I'd call pub rap. In any case, he's managed to craft a handful of really enjoyable records.
The Streets' fourth full-length, Everything is Borrowed, dropped last week. It continues the trajectory established by the first three Streets LPs: as Mike Skinner develops a more adept understanding of pop hooks, his lyrics seem to get stupider and stupider. "I want to go to heaven for the weather/Hell for the company" is a fine lyric, I suppose, but when used as the central refrain of a song and repeated roughly 200 times in a song ("Heaven for the Weather") it becomes a bit grating. And this is a shame since the song's beat is one of the most appealing of his career.
The worst part about this record is that the above is the most interesting thing I can think of to say about it. It's not bad, really, I didn't need to turn it off immediately or anything, but there wasn't a song that grabbed me on the whole thing. Yes, the production sounds better than it ever has, continuing to improve on what Skinner did on his previous LP, 2006's The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living. I for one never tire of the hard, cutting beats that Skinner crafts. But this record is still a snoozefest. There's none of the sharp with that made his 2002 debut, Original Pirate Material so much fun, or the intricate storytelling that he proved himself capable of on 2004 Pirate follow-up A Grand Don't Come for Free, one of the best hip hop concept albums to date. But on Borrowed, Mike seems to have run out of things to say. Maybe it's time for him to take a crack at producing tracks for another artist.
Everything is Borrowed [emusic]
The Streets [myspace]