x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Wiley: The Ascent

The foresight of pioneering genre godfather Richard 'Wiley' Cowie is finally paying off.

Wiley has a new album, Ascent, out.
Wiley has a new album, Ascent, out.
Wiley
The Ascent
(One More Tune/Warner Bros)
***
A decade since the uncompromising British rap strand grime emerged from East London's ghettos, the foresight of the pioneering genre godfather Richard "Wiley" Cowie is finally paying off. Having scored an overdue number one single last summer with the pool party soundtrack Heatwave, this ninth album is Wiley's opportunity to scale a defining career peak. Not that the often-eccentric 34-year-old gives a hoot for playing the game: he self-leaked The Ascent ahead of its release. And that isn't the only diversion on his upwards trajectory. The 13 wildly veering tracks attempt to please all of the people, shoehorning countless crossover cuts around a healthy helping of expected grimy moments. Heatwave and the Tulisa-led Hands in the Air squarely satisfy chart-friendly obligations, allowing Wiley to dabble with drum 'n' bass (Reload), swaggering US hip-hop tempos (Chainsaw), and even, aided by the warbler du jour Emeli Sandé, bittersweet introspection (My Heart). The resulting scattershot continuity somewhat spears Wiley's ambition. But from a maverick who once cheerfully gave away more than 200 unreleased songs online, cherry-picking your own personal highlights was probably always on the cards.
artslife@thenational.ae
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