This is the third album from Mike Skinner, a.k.a. The Streets. This British rapper’s first two albums (Original Pirate Material, 2002, and A Grand Don’t Come For Free, 2004) are among the highest quality in lyricism, beat composition, and overall sound production. Original Pirate Material is exactly what you would expect: guerilla samplings layered over stunning beats, with occasional bursts of lyrical genius. “A Grand” is a bit of a departure and represents the first-ever British hip-hopera, according to my infinite knowledge at least. The sound is relatively the same with production skill, lyrics, and songwriting all elevated.
Skinner has a lot to live up to with “Hardest Way…” and he doesn’t disappoint.
Released on 4/25/06, “The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living” finds Skinner in a different place. This album is not about the struggles of a poor London boy, but rather about the trappings of fame. With songs about cocaine use (Pranging Out), destroying hotel rooms (Hotel Expressionism), and extravagant spending (Memento Mori), he loses the common man appeal that worked for him “when you wasn’t famous.”
In an exclusive interview on the iTunes version of the disc, Skinner states, “I don’t think this album is as much about empathy... it is as honest, if not more honest than the previous albums…I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for me, and I think you could have done that on the previous albums.” This is interesting because he sees the transition to fame and is aware of the dangers associated, but still writes an honest record that shows (at least a little bit) of what ego does to a man of humble roots.
Skinner stands on his head producing this record. Listen to the opening seconds of “Pranging Out,” and be blown away.
Though due to his fame we lose contact with Mike Skinner on this album, he manages to not alienate us completely by just writing good songs.
RIYL: Dizzee Rascal, Sway DaSafo, DANGERDOOM