Skepta’s ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ Is A Grime Album For The Ages

Words: Yemi Abiade
Images: Olivia Rose

When Skepta changed the name of his new album from SK Level to Ignorance Is Bliss last month, the change symbolised a shift of some sort. Not much was known then about the project, other than the name switch representing a 2019 flex, an up-to-date, contemporary vision of his art. This is fitting given the last few years Skep has enjoyed.

Little has remained the same for the emcee in the three years since his last opus, 2016’s Mercury Prize-winning Konnichiwa album; on top of locking off the trainer game with his SK Air collaboration with Nike and bagging a worldwide smash with A$AP Rocky, “Praise The Lord (Da Shine)”, the birth of his first child marked a shift for Skepta the MC and Joseph Junior Adenuga the man. The moves of a grime artist in his prime had the scene salivating at the idea of a new project, and how Skep would attack the game yet again as one of its most complete and accomplished entities.

First single “Bullet From A Gun” was literally that, the first shell from the chamber of his new musical bank, and it represented a new Skepta entirely: an introspective example of audible elevation and growth, the track was symbolic of the renewed sense of self-purpose in his life. A few hours later, second single “Greaze Mode” served as a reminder that despite this growth, Skeppy hadn’t lost any of the swagger and style of old.

From front to back, Ignorance Is Bliss delivers. It’s a grime album to bump well into your 60s, a merry go round through Skepta’s mind as he navigates through familiar surroundings with the haters, scorn lovers, and his crew behind him. There are party bangers, pro-black anthems, relationship ballads, call-outs to the opps and even a sample all the way from leftfield, tightly wrapped in by Skepta, who is barring and producing the best he has in years. Seemingly energised by his venture into fatherhood, he channels this new energy into a mature, balanced album that will stand out in his discography.

“Bullet From A Gun”

This is what needs to be branded ‘grown man grime’ from this day forth. With Skepta and Ragz Originale on co-production, they craft an airy, sullen-sounding ode to growth and empowerment. Skepta is razor sharp as he pays tribute to his family and his peers with immaculate clarity. A refreshing intro.

“Greaze Mode” f/ Nafe Smallz

The yang to “Bullet From A Gun”’s yin. Skepta comes through with his trademark braggadocio, confident flexing and girl-stealing lyrics. An appearance from Luton’s Nafe Smallz fits into the pocket of smooth high-pitched crooner effectively.

“Redrum” f/ Key!

Reverse the name of this track and you have its subject. Making a strong case for hardest tune on the album, “Redrum” is an anthem for the opposition, brought to life by the string twangs of a beat that almost transports the listener to the Land of the Rising Sun. Recounting his life and desires of police to see him behind bars, Skepta remains resolute throughout. American rapper Key! comes through with a fairly forgettable guest verse, but Skep is on top form.

“No Sleep”

Skepta has long possessed a flow arguably envied by many in the game. “No Sleep” is a lesson in supreme flow and rhyme patterns, and he stays poised as his tunnel vision aims at continued wins. With a beat that would be suited in an old school 64-bit video game, it harkens back to early eskibeat instrumentals (ironic considering Skep’s current relationship status with Wiley), a perfect milieu for his intense lyricism.

“What Do You Mean” f/ J Hus

A track that popped out of the album’s tracklist does not disappoint. A more traditional UK rap song—its BPM is noticeably slower than on other songs—J Hus comes through with another memorable hook. Skep slows down his flow but continues to excel, putting listeners in a spell having christened himself as a ‘magician’. Confidence raps follow, as the Meridian don continues to assert himself throughout the album.

“Going Through It”

Skepta switched things up here, and over a claustrophobic instrumental, he is conflicted, wanting to change the situation for those around him but rebuffed at every opportunity by his own actions and that of others. Despite this, he sees no competition in the game, infallible to the madness of life.

“Same Old Story”

A further step away from the more hard-hitting material, relationships are on the agenda, and the seemingly never-ending emotional turmoil that comes with maintaining a partner. Skep is a hopeless romantic here, used and abused by women but forever on the lookout for something substantial. His pain is audible but endearing throughout.

“Love Me” f/ Cheb Rabi & B Live

Skepta and Sophie Ellis-Bextor is the unlikely partnership we didn’t know we wanted. Re-purposing the latter’s “Murder On The Dancefloor” and funnelling it back to a grime generation, “Love Me” is the other side of the coin cashed in by “Same Old Story”, only Skepta and guests Cheb Rabi and B Live are direct in their disdain for the girls who have led them on.

“Animal Instinct” f/ Lancey Foux

More lyrics for lyrics. From comparing his crew to art pieces to praying the haters live the lives they paint with words, Skepta continues to prove that while priorities may have changed, the smoke for others remains. Meanwhile, Lancey’s high-pitched vocals add an element of spookiness to the already ominous beat.

“Glow In The Dark” f/ Lay Z & Wizkid

Constantly wearing his blackness loudly and proudly, Big Smoke breaks it down further on “Glow In The Dark”, sparing some time to critique the government and the police. Avoiding becoming what society wanted him to be—the stereotypes of criminality that continue to plague the black community—the track celebrates his elevation to the truest version of himself.

“You Wish”

Skep still has time for the haters, laying them to waste with yet more lyrical incision and dexterity. Interpolating everything from Dizzee Rascal’s infamous “I’m not a mook” cry to Dave’s infectious “at this age” hook from “Funky Friday”, “You Wish” is packed with body shots by an unrelenting emcee.

“Gangsta” f/ BBK

A good old-fashioned Boy Better Know cypher. Shorty, Frisco, Jammer and Jme enter proceedings, sending for fake bad boys and imitators. Jme’s “you can’t buy G status” quirk perfectly summarises the mood of this track, and it sounds good to have these men all on one track again.

“Pure Water”

Bringing Ignorance Is Bliss to a frantic close, the before-released “Pure Water” fits like a glove, and with it, Skepta seals the cap on what has been an exciting ride. This album is a pure representation of grime’s past, present and future, nodding to the sonics and personalities of yesteryear, sparring with the current cream of the crop of UK music and crafting a blueprint of mature grime for future generations to follow. The Tottenham spitter is, arguably, at the very top of his game, which only signals good news for the scene at large.


Posted on May 31, 2019