Music by VICE

Ice Caps Melt: The Big Wiley Interview

As the godfather of grime, Wiley still occupies a strange position in his own universe. Could his final album cement his legacy?

by Fred Macpherson
10 January 2017, 1:59am

Illustration: Dan Evans

Later this week, a few days before his 38th birthday, Wiley will release his eleventh solo album. Throw in the standalone singles, thirteen mixtapes, six full lengths with Roll Deep, and eleven zip files of music he gave away in 2010 and it's an intimidating discography, even for the most die hard eski fans.

But his legacy isn't really about his expansive output as impressive as it is; it's more about what he started and where it's ended up. As a self-appointed canary down the coal mine, Wiley conceived the raw mechanics of grime – choppy, icy strings, hollow basslines, 2-step beats, punchy bars – before stretching the genre to its creative and commercial limits in the time it took most MCs to get a record out. Always one to start trends rather than follow them, he was releasing full blown pop tracks before Dizzee, Tinchy and Chip in the mid-00s, and he was going back to basics way before Skepta. Make no mistake: if the last few years of grime have taught us anything, it's that Wiley's original formula never lost its potency.

Yet rather than sitting at the top of the food chain celebrating the world catching up, the 'Godfather of Grime' appears to occupy an awkward position in his own universe. Not one to bask in reflected glory, he can seem like an outsider in a scene he helped create; suspicious of the world he's so often carried on his own shoulders like the Birdman of Bow, the Atlas of E3. His flow remains as effortless and irreverent as ever, but he rarely looks like he's having that much fun on stage, and he often skips appearances altogether, preferring to dodge the limelight.

Read the rest of this interview on Noisey.