On 13th April, UK rapper Skeptarevealed via Instagram that he would be releasing his long anticipated project Konnichiwa on May 6th. The release marks a long journey in the Konnichiwa saga, with Skepta first name dropping it back in 2013 and then people asking for it’s release over the past 3 years. There have been a number of covers, videos and rumours about the project, all adding to the suspense and excitement. But with an official release set, the clock is ticking on what will become the most important UK urban project to date. While it’s a big statement, it’s hard to find another release from the grime and UK rap scene that has had everyone eagerly waiting and anticipating for it’s drop. While he may or may not know it, the Boy Better Know frontman has a lot riding on the release and it will be one of the biggest milestones in UK urban history;
As soon as Skepta announced Konnichiwa, there has been alot of talk about who will feature on the piece and contribute to production on the piece. The rumours were fueled back in February when SK Vibemakers supposedly leaked the official tracklist on social media and included features from regular collaborators JME and Frisco as well as a track called ‘Tracksuit Mafia‘ which featured Drake. Skepta also added to the suspense when he posted his own picture which had people trying to decipher the names of tracks and who was on what. People have name dropped everyone from Giggs to Drake, A$AP Rocky to Section Boyz and all in between, which just goes to show the pulling power of this forthcoming project. All of the rumours and fake listings have proven again that this release is ever important and when the official track listing did drop [as shown above], it really did make a statement in itself. First off, pre-released tracks ‘It Ain’t Safe‘, ‘Shutdown‘, ‘That’s Not Me‘ and ‘Ladies Hit Squad‘ have already accumulated over 30,000,000 YouTube views while newly released track ‘Man (Gang)‘ has already been streamed over a million times in a few days. As for features, Skepta has kept it local with features from BBK and JME as well as shouts for Novelist and Wiley. He also has Young Lord and A$AP Nast on the aformentioned tracks as well as Pharrell Williams on a track entitled ‘Numbers‘. We know Skepta and Pharrell have been working together since they were spotted in the studio together and it is a great look to have the legendary artist on a track. The track listing is anothe reminder of his global reach while remaining grounded in his roots.
The #SHUTDOWN Effect
While fans of Skepta will know what the man can accomplish, many saw his impact for the grime, fuck even the UK scene when he dropped his now infamous smash ‘Shutdown‘. The track blew up the internet, streaming over a million within days and leading to official remixes from Preditah and Idris Elba. The track sparked an underground resurgence within grime and led to one of the moments of 2015, when Skepta arranged a #Shutdown party in East London at a day’s notice which led to hundreds, maybe even thousands of people turning up to see the inpromptu performance. The event was even referenced in Skepta’s track ‘Back Then‘; “David Cameron on the phone to Obama, Man are shaking and panicking, when they see the Shutdown Shoreditch gathering“. Skepta build on this hype and even followed in the footsteps of So Solid Crew, Dizzee Rascal and Sway when he performed ‘Shutdown‘ onLater…with Jools Holland. The support only grew for Skepta as he gradually becomes a household name and the release of Konnichiwa will only look to continue that trend.
The US Connect
Skepta‘s meteoric rise over the course of 2015 was kicked off with by an infamous performance by Kanye West at the 2015 BRIT Awards. During his rendition of ‘All Day‘, he invited Skepta [alongside the likes of Krept & Konan, Stormzy and Novelist] onto the stage. The event propelled Skepta into the US limelight and saw his name on influential US sites; The Source and Vibe . While rumours circulated of Yeezy and Skepta collaborating on a track, Drake took to Instagram to show his love for Skepta, even saying that he was a fan of his famous clash with Devilman on Lord of the Mics 2. The connection to Drake led to the two working on Wizkid‘s ‘Ojuelegba‘ and performing together at Wireless Festival. He even toured the US and Canada in 2015, performing to thousands of die-hard fans. While a co-sign from Drake was never a make-or-break for Skepta, their relationship has opened him up to a whole new audience and why this new project is ever more important for his US relations. The lead-up is promising, with features in XXL and HotNewHipHop and Skepta was even set for a show at this year’s Coachella [but his Visa was cancelled!] The release of Konnichiwa will be the first full-length project for this new era of fans and will continue to build bridges between the US and UK.
Landscape of the UK scene
It’s fair to say that the UK urban scene is the healthiest it has ever been for a long time. The spotlight has been shone firmly on the depths of talent the UK has to offer and stars have been made across the country. While the grime scene has exploded with a wealth of new talent, including Novelist and Stormzy, there has always been a keen eye of the forefathers of the scene and what they have to offer. While Giggs has popped up on features from Fekky [‘Gossip‘] and 67 [‘Lets Lurk‘], Kano made an impressive return with his 2016 album Made In The Manor. So as we await Skepta’s effort, it’s clear that there is room to make an impact. His previous full length project, Blacklisteddropped in 2012, debuting at #4 in the iTunes chart and spawned hits ‘Castles‘, ‘Ace Hood Flow‘ and ‘We Begin Things‘. Konnichiwa has the potential to tie in a number of fans, from fans of his classic Meridian days to his new fans gained over the past 2 years. The appeal with Skepta is being able to approach his sound in such an authentic way and hopefully this will be showcased to the fullest when Konnichiwa finally drops.
I want #Konnichiwa to represent my city, I want it to break culture barriers, I want it to mean something for real.