The Streets: 'A Grand Don't Come for Free'

British Hip-Hop Artist's Paen to Working-Class Life

Mike Skinner, AKA The Streets

hide captionMike Skinner, aka The Streets

Courtesy Vice/Atlantic Records
Cover of The Streets' 'A Grand Don't Come for Free'

hide captionCover of The Streets' A Grand Don't Come for Free

British hip-hop artist Mike Skinner performs under the name The Streets, and his sophomore CD release is called A Grand Don't Come for Free. And, as Day to Day music critic Christian Bordal discovers, Skinner hates poetry, musicals, and opera — even though critics find elements of each of those genres in his work.

Mike Skinner a.k.a. The Streets

hide captionMike Skinner a.k.a. The Streets

Courtesy Vice/Atlantic Records

A Grand Don't Come For Free is a kind of musical narrative that tells a rambling story about a guy who loses 1,000 pounds (about $1,800), suspects his roommates, finds a girlfriend, finds his TV broken, messes around with a woman he meets in a bar on holiday, feels bad about it, loses his girlfriend, and finds his 1,000 quid again.

It's all middle-class slice-of-life, Bordal says, and the tracks and lyrics on A Grand Don't Come For Free are deliberately under-produced to enhance that real-life, almost amateurish feeling.

"The production side of it is just purely because I work on my own and I don't have a really expensive mix engineer to finish it all off," Skinner tells Bordal. "So I think that it's accidental... I don’t try and be ugly — I just look at the small things that are going on, and they become part of the story."

Unlike most American hip-hop, Skinner's characters are unprepossessing and unremarkable. They don’t pretend to be slick lovers or super-tough gangstas. His sound comes out of the U.K. garage dance club scene that developed in London in the late 1990s.

With sales of more than one million copies of his first album, Original Pirate Material, Skinner has reached a far wider audience — but still stays true to his working-class roots.

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  • Album: A Grand Don't Come for Free
  • Artist: The Streets
  • Released: 2004
 

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