A lot has changed for Skepta in the three years since the release of his Mercury Prize-winning, Brit nominated, fourth studio album ‘Konnichiwa’. From having a daughter, to dating a supermodel and even becoming a Nigerian Chief, there was not an absence of content for him to explore when creating ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’.
Even in the genre of grime itself there has been development and steps in a forward direction with Stormzy taking over the commercial space, Wiley being awarded an MBE and most recently Ghetts getting an Ivor Novello nomination for his track ‘Black Rose’ from his album ‘Ghetto Gospel: The New Testament’.
But even with these factors, Skepta manages to expertly navigate 13 tracks with diversity, precision and flair, bringing together both old and new to produce (literally) an album that continues to see him push the boundaries and raise the levels in a way that only Skepta could.
Despite the success of ‘Konnichiwa’, for most long-time Skepta and hardcore grime fans and critics, Skepta’s last real revolutionary moment came in 2012 with the release of 'Blacklisted’. The project saw him in a state of “underdog psychosis”, stripping away and renouncing the identity he had forged through his major label endeavours.
On ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ however he comes across as a man fuelled by a new perspective, no longer the underdog but confident in who he is, making him more focused and assured than he’s been at any point in the three-year gap in his various features and even his ‘Vicious EP’.
Skepta is at his lyrical best with quotables for days, but whether it be embarrassing or regrettable, he doesn’t shy away from his past. While this dose of nostalgia adds personality to the album, he still manages to consistently let us into his mind-state as a now 36-year-old man in 2019. One thing you can’t help but admire and are sure to keep coming back to, is the sparse, yet remarkably layered production, almost all of which was handled by the man himself.
The album is not without its flaws though and though it doesn’t lose any of its quality, it does lose some of its cohesion in the second half with the array of features bringing different energy and styles into the mix. This is good for variation, but it does tread the line of Greatest Hits territory (no pun intended).
It was a surprise not to see a follow up to the smash that was 'Praise The Lord' with A$AP Rocky but stand-out appearances from BBK and J Hus make a mark, and the politically charged 'Glow In The Dark' and opening track 'Bullet From A Gun' are also worthy of a mention.
On ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’, Skepta is back with a renewed hunger and sense of purpose, overcoming a new set of challenges and proving once again why he is a grime mainstay.
Words: Aaron Bishop
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