A Grand Don't Come for Free is the second studio album by English rapper and producer Mike Skinner, under the music project the Streets. It was released on 17 May 2004 and is listed in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. It is a rap opera and concept album that follows the story of its protagonist's relationship with a girl named Simone, alongside the mysterious loss of £1,000 from his home (the eponymous "grand").Wikipedia
A cool concept, but honestly so much of the album was just annoying, both the whining and the rapping and beats themselves. I like the idea of the album far more than the execution.
One of most British things I have heard, but it is fantastic!
I knew, before I'd hit play, that I'd give this one a 5. I love The Streets so much. This album, along with Original Pirate Material and The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living were on regular rotation in my car in the late aughts. The delivery is aggressively conversational, the lyrics deliver a beautifully sharp narrative, and the sparse beats provide the perfect bed for the vocal performance. I just... I just love The Streets. I just do.
Worst album ever every song just keeps getting worse
Tis good. Cool to hear hints of early dub-step in the background. You can tell this album really set the stage for a lot of music that followed it.
What the fuck? Who cares about any of this bullshit? This is the first album in a while that felt like it was made specifically to make me angry.
Lose a bag of money: try to gamble on soccer to win it back. Go to pub and do drugs Get stoned with girlfriend and watch tv, get in row with girlfriend, go to pub and try to pick up hot girl, insult her and get in fight. . ZThis album is pure gold.
As far as concept albums go, this one's a keeper. And it's a U.K. rap/grime concept album, to boot! My only minor reproach is that there are a few underwhelming tracks where the overall narrative takes over the music itself in terms of priority, especially towards the middle. But fortunately, this is not the case on the records' highlights. "It Was Supposed To Be Easy" is a striking opener, Mike Skinner's heavily accented yet clear-as-a-bell lad's voice doing wonders to set up the table and introduce the story *in media res*, as in most great short stories or novels. "Blinded By The Lights" is one of the best depictions of a drunken night ever penned this side of the pond--it's slow pace swaying you into the narrator's hallucinory state of mind as if you were there in that sleazy club with him. Far more straightforward, "Fit But You Know It" is a snarly hit with a catchy rock guitar sample. And "Dry Your Eyes" and "Empty Cans" end the yarn with the right amount of emotions, the latter even serving as a morality tale of sorts about free will and redemption. The strings arrangements on those two last tracks are very subtle, too. They're not strings for Hollywood stuff, they're strings for Mike Leigh or Ken Loach. Which is fitting here. As usual for those five or four-star reviews, I won't add much to what has already been written out there about this particular album. I even fear that I've spoiled the story a little with what I've written so far. But beyond that spoiler alert, what I found really interesting about this sophomore effort is that it was a different way for Skinner to depict that working class world he had already brilliantly explored in *Original Pirate Material*. Here this world of lads, lasses and geezers is viewed through the lens of a particular narrative, and such storytelling ambition often feels earned. Because Skinner keeps it sharp and simple, right as it should be given the topics he chose to deal with. It's a story about characters having mundane challenges in their social and love lives--characters having money issues, passing deluded thoughts and self-denial phases, not to mention addictions that might turn from a minor problem to a major one if left unchecked. But mostly, it's a story about simple folks. It's a rap opera, yes. But it's a rap opera about us as a people. [Number of albums left to review or just listen to: 982 Number of albums from the list I find relevant enough to be mandatory listens: 8 (including this one--but only on the condition there's room for *Original Pirate Material*, too) Albums from the list I *might* include in mine later on: 6 Albums from the list I will certainly *not* include in mine (as I think many others are more important): 4 Albums on which I feel my judgment is muddled by my past forays into specific genres instead of others (some might end up on my final list if they're culturally important): 1]
Interesting as a concept but not as good as Original Pirate Material.
2002, along with continuing the streak of every year of this millennium being utterly crap, saw the release of Original Pirate Material, the debut album by The Streets, a garage/hip-hop homegrown work by Mike Skinner, a talented emcee from Birmingham, who pretended to be Cockney to the bones. Now, I started university in 2002, and beforehand I spent some time in London, and I can tell you that Original Pirate Material was everywhere in the capital, for good reason. Original Pirate Material presented a recognisable portrait on contemporary youthful London life, both hedonistic yet somehow unsatisfied, loving the pub-club-spliff-takeaway treadmill yet wondering if life should be so shallow and focused on instant gratification. Mike Skinner proved a witty, incisive lyricist, a man steeped in that British tradition of the clever-beyond-his-class songwriter, and it demonstrated that UK hip-hop, oft a kicking-boy of British music, could foster an independent, worthwhile voice. This is not to say Original Pirate Material was perfect; many found The Streets grating and oafish with justifiable reasons. But I was not one of them, and I had moderately high expectations for what The Streets would achieve in the future, and A Grand Don't Come For Free could have cemented Mike Skinner as one the great British lyricists. I hated it. I found this album abysmal. It is the sound of a starving artist being offered a banquet, then pigging out and disgusting everyone by pouring custard onto a beef wellington and subsequently vomiting all down his front. Every decision made on this album proves to be exactly the wrong one, and I have no idea why this, instead of Original Pirate Material is on the list. Harsh, I know, but the deterioration from the first album to the second is palpable. For his second magnus opus, Mike Skinner deciding to make a concept album. That sound you just heard was you releasing the safety catch off your grandad's luger. So, a concept album about a poor young man who meets a girl, blows all his dosh on an ill-considered bet, gets drunk/stoned/pilled-up, loses the girl, then either sits in his flat resenting his bad run of luck, or finds a grand down the back of the TV (yes, that last part makes absolutely no sense). As a narrative, it sounds and is pretty banal. But the main issue with the story is that even though the chap goes through a series of common experiences, the listener doesn't empathise with him at all. He just seems such a twat. He goes through these experiences with little genuine reflection, almost like a philosophical zombie, an entity with no internal life whatsoever. The girl leaves him because she clocks that he is just a loser, an opinion with which the listener agrees. The albums second greatest weakness is that you just don't care about him. The biggest weakness? Mike Skinner's rapping. All his talent, all the lyrical flair on the first album has vamoosed. Try saying this couplet: I might ask my mates where they'll be drinking From the sofa giving them a ding Seriously, just say it. It feels awful in the mouth, because it is an incorrect use of metre. The entire album is constructed from similarly jackknifing lines, lines which invariably end in the worst rhyming couplets conceivable. Again, look at the cited example, which manages to be both lazy and laborious. And then Mike somehow succeeds in making it worse by STRESS-ING EV-ER-RY SYL-LAB BLE. Mike Skinner seems to be aiming not so much for Roots Manuva as Pam Ayres. A Grand Don't Come For Free is one of the most wince-inducing cases of second album syndrome I have heard. The biggest hit from this was Fit But You Know It, which was a huge song at the time. Fit But You Know It doesn't quite slot into the risible concept of the album, which can only be to its credit. But consider the song's half-life. Dapper Laughs was a comedy character by an already-forgotten estate agent-turned comedian, whose schtick was short skits on Vine depicting a wilfully crass lad (his catchphrase was "Proper moist!"). His routines consisted of 6-second bits where he would say, for instance, you shouldn't eat a banana next to a gay man, as he'd think you'd want to suck him off (ba-dum-tsh!). ITV2 (the number tells you it's crap in advance) gave him a short-lived TV show, where he tried to parody dating advice shows by granting his wit and wisdom to actual members of the public (such as shouting out "GET YOUR GASH OUT!" to show off your adventurous side). A few rape jokes down the line, his show got put out of our misery, and the comedian had to go on Newsnight and announce he was retiring the character. Anyway, the theme tune to Dapper Laugh's show was Fit But You Know It. That's what I now associate the song with: a pillock shouting at passing women to show him their boobs for proper bants.
Soooo bad... but nice to dust off the 1.
The mile skinner concept album. Absolutely superb; it was supposed to be so eeeeeaaassssyyyy!
Se oli tonnin seteli. Maailma olisi parempi paikka, jos olisi enemmän tällaisia levyjä, missä kerrotaan tarina. Ja toimiviahan nämä biisit on ihan yksittäisinäkin, mutta koko levyn tarinan suhteen odottaa kappale kappeelta, mitä seuraavaksi tapahtuu. Levy, mihin takuulla palaan. 4,5 --> 5.
4.5 afgerond naar vijf. Nooit gedacht dat ik dit zo leuk zou vinden. De betere vorm van rap. Een paar keer extra luisteren om het hele verhaal mee te hebben zal sowieso dit album nog beter maken.
This was a favorite of mine back in college. Haven't listened to it in years and was surprised to see it on this list! I enjoyed it just as much as back then. I love how the lyrics form an overarching story, and is generally pretty humorous.
Fucking killer album. Saw him live at a festival when this came out and It was great. Still sing along with the accent.
One of my all time favourite
Äntligen The Streets! Mike Skinners projekt har funnits i min periferi länge, utan att jag har kommit för mig att ge mig in i ett album. Så det var med stora förhoppningar jag gav mig in i detta projekt. Mina förhoppningar möttes. A Grand Don't Come For Free är ett konceptalbum som följer berättarjaget Mike. I It Was Supposed to Be So Easy beskrivs hur Mike har en riktig pissdag då det mesta går fel, och den slutar med att han tappar bort 1000 pund som han haft liggandes bredvid sin trasiga TV. Vi får sedan följa Mike tiden efter denna dag, som satte stort spår, för du vet, A Grand Don't Come For Free. Mike träffar Simone, som jobbar med kompisen Dan (Could Well Be In). De blir tillsammans, men bråkar. På semester är Mike otrogen mot Simone. Väl hemma är Simone själv otrogen mot Mike med Dan. Mike blir sedemera dumpad av Simone, vilket avhandlas i låten Dry Your Eyes, en vacker och extremt sorglig beskrivning av ett break-up. I Blinded by the Lights ska Mike träffa Simone och Dan på en nattklubb, men de kommer aldrig. I låten går Mike runt och är nojjig på klubben, poppar piller, och blir allt mer berusad tills han till sist inte bryr sig om vad Simone och Dan gör, cuz' there's a tune coming in. Låten kan vara den bästa som någonsin gjorts. Den får mig att vilja bli full, festa, ta droger, ha relationer, men är samtidigt fylld med stor sorg och vemod, som skiner igenom i den fan-tastiska produktionen. Skivan avslutas, och berättelsen kulmineras, med Empty Cans, en låt som bättre än någon annan demonstrerar Mike Skinners berättartalang. Den berättar två alternativa slut på historien. Först, en bitter Mike som skyller alla hans problem på andra ("It's not my fault there's wall-to-wall empty cans"). När en kille kommer för att reparera tv:n misstänker Mike att han håller på att bli blåst, och de börjar slåss, innan tv-reparatören springer ut ur lägenheten och Mike kan fortsätta dricka i ensamhet. Låten tar sedan lyssnaren tillbaks till samma scenario, där Mike sitter ensam och dricker, men med annan inställning ("It's all my fault there's wall-to-wall empty cans"). I denna versionen kommer kompisen Scott och lagar tv:n, och hittar i processen Mikes 1000 pund. Mike rycker upp sig, och kommer till insikten att endast han själv kan ta tag i sitt liv. Kompisar, familj, kanske kan hjälpa dig på vägen, men i slutändan är du ensam ansvarig över vilka vägar du tar i livet: "Or maybe it's that I realised that it is true No-one's really there fighting for you in the last garrison No-one except yourself that is, no-one except you You are the one who's got your back 'til the last deed's done Scott can't have my back 'til the absolute end 'Cause he's got to look out for what over his horizon He's gotta make sure he's not lonely, not broke It's enough to worry about keeping his own head above." The Streets va. Visst, vissa av låtarna kanske inte låter som world-beaters, och beatsen kanske är lite smutsiga. Men, det är en så äkta berättelse av en brittisk arbetarklasstillvaro att det är omöjligt att inte bli drabbad. Jag har en personlig dragning till brittisk fulkultur (fulla fotbollssupporters, skitiga pubar), så det är kanske inte konstigt att detta album tickar så många av mina boxar. Mike Skinners staccatoliknande rap är helt egen. Han spottar ren fakta mannen. Detta är en mall för hur konceptalbum som aspirerar att berätta en historia bör berätta den historien. Världsklass. Konst. The Streets är äkta. Bästa låt: Blinded by the Lights.
Really interesting album, the style may be similar to Gorillaz, but it's completely different. There are several songs that took my attention. It contains miscellaneous music, but in general it's hip-hop. It's very melodic and independent, that makes it interesting.
Love this album - the best concept album of the decade.
It's been a while since I listened to this album, but I'm falling in love with it all over again. Great beats and electronics, rap/spoken word with a nice flow, entertaining lyrics, and sometimes it gets quite moving. Really enjoyed this from start to finish.
Love this album
Lovely bit of Brit-Hop, he has his own style as a street poet and I love that he performs in his own accent. Love "I Could Well Be In" "Fit But You Know It" "Dry Your Eyes" of course. Lovely snapshots of Brit Life in the early part of the 21st century. If you like this you must also love Arab Strap, proper social commentary through music.
This was unexpected. Really awesome!
I love this album. The storytelling is amazing.
It’s great. Although there is probably a fair bit of nostalgia related to that with this one.
An absolute cracker from start to finish. The best thing Mike Skinner has done - untouchable
One of my all time favourites. Superb.
A fantastic companion piece to Arctic Monkeys' debut album. Every word feels perfectly chosen to draw out comedy or poignancy to the max. As a result, I really enjoy the repetition of phrases over and over again. A fantastic snapshot of early 2000s Britain, one to enjoy further in the future.
When I started this I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it… and then it took me on a journey with a protagonist I am completely taken by. It may not seem like an epic journey - filled with mundane details as well as the highs and lows of a relationship of a stoner’s life in Britain - but by the end I was so emotionally involved that by the breakup in “Dry Your Eyes” I actually had to heed the advice myself. This is an absolutely wonderful album. I felt like my life changed a little today.
This is a simple but compelling story performed as a rap opera in a Brummie dialect that would make anything charming to my American ears. I'm not super interested in listening to any single song as a stand-alone track. But the album as a whole is unique and provided me with a fascinating listening experience today. I really enjoyed it.
this is hysterically bad technically British rap
15th May 2022 Listened in the morning and finished at work. Gareth came round in the evening to chat about Kate. Mike skinner and the streets have what every artist is striving for- a sound which is unique that you know immediately is them. Tracks the course of a relationship, but adds grandeur as well as grounded realism.
Loved it, loved the fact of a story throughout the entire album
I fucking love this album. Never heard it before, but it speaks to me in so many ways. Obviously, it's got that British-angsty-goofy (but still melancholy) thing going for it. It's classic British story-telling too. It brought me the same level of joy I get from watching Snatch or Lock Stock and the rest of those brilliant movies. It's just so "every day / nothing special" but conveyed in a way that sucks you in. Plus, having the first song being about losing 1000 pounds and the last one about finding it gave a nice sense of closure - like I just lived through something with this guy. Love it.
What an album. Honestly the true successor to Arthur by the Kinks, or The Wall by Pink Floyd, except much more grounded in "Guy loses some money, meets a girl while pilled up, cheats on her on a lads holiday, loses girl, descends in to bitter depression/realises he's lucky to have his friends and finds his money again (yes there are alternate endings)". It's fantastic, and that it can go from bawdy humour on Fit But You Know It, to heartbreaking on Dry Your Eyes, to fully dark on Empty Cans is fantastic. Mike Skinner never topped this or his first album, but the first two are both ESSENTIAL.
Made me fall back in love with concept albums. Doesn't have the bedroom tunes raw power of the first album but this is music as storytelling and I love it.
This album is Uber-cool for many reasons, not the least of which is that its best-known track is funny AF and I didn’t know that it was part of this rap opera opus. This album, like The Village Green by The Kinks or Different Class by Pulp, reflected British youth so dead-on in 2004. I want to give it 5 stars. It deserves 4.5 because not everything is a banger but it’s all so accurate. Aw, fuck it.
Absolutely amazing storytelling in a stunning way
Well, this is one of those albums that will undoubtedly be lost on anyone who's not from the UK. I think it has a setting and subject matter that just plainly won't make too much sense to people elsewhere in the world, and I suspect that's why the global rating on this one is quite low. While I really like The Streets, I hadn't listened to this in its entirety before, though I'd certainly heard almost every song, just out of order. I'm generally a little more familiar with Original Pirate Material, and Has It Come To This? remains my favourite song of Skinner's. I was just a child when this was released, so I was far too young to understand or appreciate anything of this album, and that's why I was honestly totally caught by surprise to discover that this was a rap-opera concept album. It was clear that every song I'd heard before had a story to tell, but I never realised that they all went together to form an entire tale. Mike Skinner just has a way with words, lyricism and music production that makes the whole thing just excellent, both as a compelling story to follow and an album of absolute bangers. It's not just a good rap album with some bangers though, I feel it really did push the bar in some cases, with elements of early dubstep in Blinded by the Lights. I promise I'll eventually stop rambling, but I felt that I needed to give Empty Cans an honourable mention. While it's not really my favourite *song* on the album, it's definitely my favourite parts of the wider story. I really liked how it essentially had a bad ending and a good ending in the form of basically two tracks that start exactly the same and branch off in two directions, leaving the true ending up to the listener. Overall it's an amazing album and I definitely want to seek out more concept albums now. It's worth noting that I am EXTREMELY biased, due to being just about as British as this album. Favourite: Blinded By The Lights
A fantastic album, a classic. The whole things feels so mid 2000s and although we were too young to understand a lot of the context of it it still transports me straight back to those days at school. The whole sound was so fresh for me then and so different I just love it.
I was a big fan of this record when it first came out.
It's like a Jim Jarmusch film - a complete story rooted in the events of a normal everyday life (if your life involves going on holiday in Spain, losing money, and trying to gamble on football in an attempt to get that money back). This concept album somehow effectively blends dark comedy with real emotional resonance of love, loss, heartbreak, and tragedy without it being a complete parody of itself. Amazing record. I was a fan of Original Pirate Material and for whatever stupid reason never really gave this a proper listen. Glad this came up on the list because I'll be returning to this frequently.
2004. What a time. I listened to this album a bunch when it came out. Being Canadian there wasn’t much exposure on the Streets or Mike Skinner but I remember they played the video for Fit But You Know It on Muchmusic once and I had to find out who this was. This thing is about being a cringy 20-something in the 21st century. I have to rate it 5 stars as I was one of these people!
phenomenal story & listen
Very fun, very catchy, I like operas and I love rap. Great story. Standout Tracks: Not Addicted, Blinded by the Lights, Get Out of My House, What Is He Thinking?, Dry Your Eyes
Great album, lots of middle school emo memories.
Весьма оригинально и харизматично звучащий белый хип-хоп с английским шармом, броскими припевами и очень интересным, в некотором роде андерграундным продакшном, но не идеально. 8/10
This was pretty weird at first but then I kinda came around to it. Like a British Eminem who just talk raps.
Ensikosketus tähän Streetsin levyyn. Ihan ei pääse mainion Original Pirate Materialin tasolle, mutta varsin kelpo tapaus tämäkin. Tykkään Mike Skinnerin vahvalla brittiaksentilla vedetystä omaperäisestä tyylistä. Lyriikoiden kuuntelu jäi valitettavasti töitä tehdessä vähemmälle.
Adorei o conceito de album que conta uma história, me fez ler todas as letras. Nenhuma das músicas é agradável o suficiente pra entrar na minha playlist, mas fui entretido!
Actually super interesting. I did not expect to like this so much, but it's so creative! A fully-realized concept album, with a story thread and characters. Super fun and different.
As a whole, it was really good
Great UK hip hop, very unique
dobrý beaty, i koncept
Melodic rap about a guy that goes to the ATM to withdraw some money but doesn't get home on time for tea with him mom...
Yessssss 🙌 I have loved The Streets for YEARS. I love the Birmingham accent. I love the lingo. You don’t hear rap like this. The fact that this is a concept album or a “rap opera” is so unique. Simultaneously epic, and yet incredibly mundane. “Could Well Be In” and “Get Out of My House” are the big highlights, but the whole thing is a jam. That all being said, I think I still prefer Original Pirate Material or Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living.
it was a decent listen, even if I don't like the style that much.
Es hip-hop, pero me ha gustado bastante.
Toda una sorpresa. Divertido de escuchar y con buenos acordes y voz
Honestly shocked that some grime made it in the list. Excellent album with some subpar mixing
Always found it a bit over-rated but it's still a solid 3.5
I liked it actually. A few good tracks but the album works well together as a narrative.
english spoken word rap album? but its rock driving underneath? it was pretty interesting, but not very melodic. more story like, almost musical podcast short stories. nice change of pace for me personally, I may return to it someday.
Does sound a bit dated, but still a clever album.
Tää olikin hankala arvioitava. Ei mitään erityisiä hittibiisejä, mutta sitten taas olen toisaalta tällaisten teema-/tarinalevyjen ystävä. Ekalla kuuntelukerralla vasta levyn loppuvaiheessa hoksasin idean että nii tässähän oli tää kertoja ja samat pikkujutut kuten rikkoontunut telkkari toistuu biisistä toiseen. Tokalla kuuntelukerralla avautui paremmin, vaikka en vieläkään ihan täydellä ajatuksella seurannut juonta.
I enjoy this album :)
Had wat vrees hiervoor als ik de wiki las. Maar dit album heeft wel wat variatie, een sterke flow, een te begrijpen verhaal (als 'rap-opera'). Positief verrast. Al blijft het niet mijn genre
Brilliant album, great story telling!!
Richtig cooles Album, grade „Fit but You know it“! Lange nicht gehört, aber super!
Cool album. British garage rap. Reminds me of some nerdcore stuff.
I remember when this album came out and everyone wanted to be a geezer. What ever that is. I do like the story telling. The album follows Mike as he struggles with his relationship, gambling and being a 20 something britt on vacation. The production is kind of dated. Like the the snare sound on some tracks sound really wonky.
Started low but got better
I really like this album. Skinner is a great storyteller. Dry Your Eyes is a beautiful track. Blinded by the Lights is stunning.
Me agrado bastante el concepto, no me había tocado saber de algún disco que te contara una historia ligando cada canción. Creo que fue lo que más me gustó. El rapeo no me agrado del todo pero la música estaba fresca.
Finding a hip hop album I like is a rarity, so props to this guy.
Very quirky British rap album. So much great slang in here, 'e's 'aving a laugh. Funny to think they'd include this as a rap album from 2004 and not Madvillainy, but I don't need to go there again. Anyway, this was enjoyable. Delivery was slightly off-kilter, but I think it works for a bloke like this. Interesting conceptually too. I can't say I was blown away, but overall it was very solid. Quite a few tracks I'll return to. Favorite tracks: Fit But You Know It, Get Out of My House, Could Well Be In, Dry Your Eyes. Album art: I like this one quite a bit, very cool picture and good color. I thought I was looking in a diner at first glance, but it's a bus stop. Are these the titular streets we're waiting on? 4/5
Audio book, lol. I forgot I had even heard this before until that song about being fit came on. Somehow this thing works, doesn’t it? I kind of can’t imagine listening to more than this one album from this dude, but I quite enjoyed myself with it.
This is another one I listened to a lot when it came out. Still holds up for me. It's sort of just on the right side of amateurish and I like the story.
This shit is so British it's interesting. Lots of slang and language I don't super understand. It's cool, I'm not sure it's the best thing on the planet but it sounds like some early grime type stuff. Feels like something I would hear in Snatch or Long stock and two smoking barrels. It's telling a story for sure, one I don't know. Overall, It took a while to grow on me, but by the end I was into it.
A nice surprise.
3rd listen. First few times I heard this album, I thought it was just ok, but over time, during these past several months, I have grown to really enjoy the album. 4/5.
Un bon concept pourun bon album .j’ai apprecie l’ecoutert je suis interresse par le band. 4.25
Wasn't what I was expecting, but interesting hiphop story album.
This is a sort of hip-hop opera,where all the songs being related by the story of a some lost money.(7/10) FT: Fit but You Know It, Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way
A Grand Don’t Come for Free by The Streets (2004) It had to happen. I wonder what took so long. This is rap opera. And it’s not bad. It has a plot. It has humor. It has closure. It has characters that develop and (petty) conflicts that resolve (barely). But it is hugely stunted in the relevance department. Not like Wagner. Not even like Rossini. More like a cross between Bizet and Berg. Yes, Carmen meets Wozzek! But what it lacks is high drama. At least Wozzek had World War I. And Carmen gets killed in the end (sorry if I ruined it for you). Nevertheless, I started this review thinking I was going to give it a “one” star. Then I read through the entire libretto (lyrics) and decided it merited a “two”. Then, as I listened throughout, I felt it deserved a “three”. And as the reverberation faded on the final note, I thought “Dude, this is a solid four”. I won’t spoil the storyline. But the protagonist is a kid, “Mike”, living the lowbrow culture of British proletarian youth. The antagonist is the lowbrow culture of British proletarian youth. You can see why this isn’t going anywhere. “Mike” experiences frustration, loss, love, betrayal, envy, trust, moods, drugs, turns of mis/fortune, and two endings! The dialog and personal reflections are full of vignettes that elaborate the setting, but to what end? Well, maybe self-reliance, but does that ring true? I’ll leave it to my readers with advanced degrees in philosophy. Rhythms are unconventional, and that’s a plus. Beats and melodic lines are unconvincing, but they do sustain interest, and there’s plenty of variety. I’ve never been high in a dance club, but if I had, I bet it would feel a lot like the vibe in “Blinded by the Lights”. And the mood of jealousy and suspicion is perfectly captured on “What Is He Thinking?” Listen to these two tracks and you might be tempted to listen to the whole album straight through. Mike Skinner’s voice is weak, and he lacks range (barely eking out the melody on “Get Out of My House”), but that doesn’t prevent him from giving plausibly authentic expression to the emotional responses of his character. It draws the listener in. Now the vocal support from ‘Leo the Lion’ is mellow and smooth, in fine R&B timbre (“Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way”). Other voices are sub par for a studio recording, but might have succeeded in a stage production (which I’d pay good money to see, if there ever were one). If you decide to listen to this album, do it without distractions and stay focused. There’s good art here. I’m gonna quit this now and listen to it again, if you’ll excuse me. 4/5
Mike Skinner possesses a really distinctive flow and a uniquely British, working class take on millennial rap. While some of the beats and tracks have aged better than others, A Grand Don't Come for Free still holds together as a rap opera grounded in everyday concerns incredibly well. But in spite of its ambition, I think Original Pirate Material is ultimately the more essential Streets record. Favourite tracks: "Could Well Be In", "Blinded by the Lights", "Dry Your Eyes"
This album was a nice surprise for me, having not heard of the Streets previously. It is a compelling record and is easy to get into repeated listens. The storytelling is great which requires more of a close listen than most albums. This is a well crafted concept album and an enjoyable and fun listen. Favorite songs are: "Dry Your Eyes", "Blinded By the Light", "Could Well be In" 4 out of 5.
A rap opera, concept album, whatever: a tale of losing £1000, finding and losing love, and living a mundane telly sofa life alongside the pill pub club scene in the early Ohs. Sounds dreadful, right? Wrong! Well, kind of right, but no - it's easy to follow unlike most story-based LPs, lots of humour and self-deprecation - and lots of crap, forced rhymes that stand out because of Skinner's deadpan, unsung, unmelodic delivery. And I liked that. Unpretentious, trying, lots of failing, just like the Mike in the story: shit but he knows it. And it works. Four stars well-earned.
Was not feeling the album at first but by the end I was lovin it.
Never knew that "Fit But You Know It" was part of some over arching drama concept album. Not one I'd want to listen to all the time but probably will come back to this one.
The sound of my first year of grad school. It is a very unique sound and can sometimes be too much but I do generally enjoy Mike Skinner.
First of all, I love these songs about nothing. Honestly half of these songs could be episodes of Seinfeld. All the songs are weirdly believable slices of life. In some ways, the album kind of reminds me of a Philip K. Dick novel, in that it does a really good job of putting you in the head of a guy, - but you don't really like the guy and it's not necessarily a head that you want to be in. This gets 4/5. Not a 5, because I'm never going to listen to them again. It's like a really good movie that I never want to watch again.
This one was both musically fun as well as an intriguing concept. I had to read a review on Wikipedia to understand the themes, which made the story clear. Very cool concept and well executed.
Now that’s a surprise, never heard hip hop like this. Really good!