We’ll leave the arm chair theorizing for another day, but, for the moment, a sweeping generalization: British rap doesn’t work in the U.S. It’s difficult to pinpoint the disconnect precisely–we are, after all, speaking the same language (more or less). With notable exceptions, few rappers have been able to turn success in the U.K. into American acceptance.
One rapper who springs quickly to mind: The Streets, a.k.a. Birmingham native Mike Skinner. Though he never achieved a massive crossover into the U.S. pop culture consciousness, Skinner was able to turn word of mouth buzz, excellent reviews, and just enough of a push from the dying MTV beast and radio into comparatively strong album sales.
Though Norwich rapper Context has yet to sniff the heights Skinner reached at home and abroad, he’s chosen wisely in his influences if this remix to his single “Small Town Lad Sentiments” is any indicator. Concerning himself with working class woe and the dreams of an everyman with head stuck in the clouds, Context mirrors the the content that made The Streets such a success, giving it a grimmer veneer than than Skinner did–perhaps reflecting the shift in thinking that has occurred in the decade since “Let’s Push Things Forward” came out. After hearing Context, Skinner was intrigued to join forces:
“When i heard the original of ‘Small Town Lad Sentiments’ it reminded me of the MC tracks hinting at real life that inspired me to do the Streets. [Context has] got some really good lyrics. There are moments where it feels like he’s just passing on what really gets talked about. You can’t fake that sort of thing.”
Skinner handles production duties on the remix, as well as directing and appearing in the video for “Small Town Lad Sentiments.” Check it out below.