Wiley (also known as Eskiboy), born Richard Kylea Cowie, is a prolific British rapper. First recording at the tender age of 18, Wiley has been a major force in British music ever since. Sometimes called the Godfather of Grime, Wiley was instrumental in pioneering the genre, a combination of UK Garage and hip hop. Wiley was a member of the Pay As U Go crew as well as Roll Deep, a collective that also includes Dizzee Rascal, Grime's other major figure. Thanks to the often harsh beats and dark atmosphere of Grime, Wiley has hovered between the mainstream and underground, scoring a #2 UK hit with the track “Wearing My Rolex.” The rapper has released many official albums as well as free singles and limited edition vinyl, which contain some of his best work. Wiley has recorded for labels including XL, Big Dada, and Atlantic UK. His most recent album, Evolve or Be Extinct, was released January 19th, 2012 by Big Dada records.
Since it first emerged from East London in the early 2000s, grime has steadily become one of the most popular underground music styles in the United Kingdom. In true underground fashion, grime recordings got their start on pirate radio stations across the UK, and the music is often distributed informally through barbershop mixtapes and live battle DVDs. Though its roots are in hip hop, grime is differentiated from American hip hop by incorporating elements of UK electro and garage with Caribbean influences like dancehall (from Jamaica). Along with artists like Dizzee Rascal and Roll Deep, London’s Wiley (also known as Eskiboy, born Richard Kylea Cowie) is one of the earliest pioneers. The British rapper has been recording since the age of 18, his earliest recordings featured prominently on pirate radio stations. And after releasing nine albums, his most recent being 2012’s Evolve Or Be Extinct, Wiley has rightfully earned the nickname “The Godfather of Grime.” While grime is often noted for having darker themes and sounds, Wiley also shows that there’s room for a sense of humor. “Customs” is essentially a skit between Wiley and an inept customs officer at a Jamaican airport. The officer, who’s voice is pitched up to a comical tone, makes Wiley take a drug test in a roundabout “Oh, you know how it is” way. A frustrated Wiley, who’s just trying to get to Barbados to go sightseeing (and hopefully bump into Rihanna), admits that he’s just smoked some weed, but isn’t carrying drugs. The officer lets him go, and the skit ends with Wiley muttering, “fking prk” under his breath. This immediately segues into “Immigration,” with Wiley rapping, “Immigration wanna mess up all my fun/They say I’m looking like a rebel on the run” over electro synths and grimy beats. Shifting away from his issues with air travel personnel is “Boom Blast.” Simply put, it’s Wiley’s party jam, with a chorus that’s meant to drag you from the bar to the dance floor: “If we give you the feeling/that makes you wanna go and touch the ceiling/let's get down!” It’s been eight years since Wiley’s debut album release, Treddin' on Thin Ice, but Evolve Or Be Extinct solidifies his title as the Godfather of Grime.