Wiley - The Ascent

Wiley - The Ascent

Revered as the ‘Godfather of Grime’, Wiley has been a staple on the UK rap scene for years, and The Ascent comes as he is at the peak of his commercial success. It marks an interesting moment in his career trajectory as he tries to balance his underground legacy with an LP filled with unashamed radio-hits.

The Ascent is his ninth album and shows all the signs of a man with a reputation that precedes him. It is inundated with guest features (only the opening and closing tracks are solo), including local heroes like Skepta and occasional outsiders like the Far East Movement and French Montana.

Wiley’s specialty has always been rolling his impeccable flow over dirty, bass heavy beats, and in that regard, this effort is no different. The lyrics aren’t as sharp; the almost ubiquitous focus on pulling girls in clubs and bigging himself up shouldn’t be a problem for an emcee of Wiley’s credentials, but lacks imagination and all seems a little easy. Nevertheless, it’s hard to complain when they’re delivered with his distinctive flow.

The opening track (‘Intro’) is a highlight and showcases the dance-pop/house influences that dominate the record. Almost every song that follows is a radio hit (‘Can You Hear Me’), bass-heavy banger (‘First Class’) or dancefloor material (‘Heatwave’, ‘Reload’), exemplifying the sound that his Calvin Harris and Example have been pumping out in recent years. It does wear a bit thin though, with songs like ‘Lights On’ coming across as far too sterile and unlikely to warrant a second listen.

‘Skillzone’ is a more traditional Wiley track and one of the album’s high points, at the risk of sounding nostalgic. He gets seven other rappers on the track and the cipher-style routine is in-your-face in all the right ways. ‘Humble Pie’ is a refreshing finish and far more enjoyable than the few tracks that precede it. Wiley loses the hook-driven, EDM-focus of the other tracks in favour of a few consecutive verses, giving himself the chance to inject some character into the album, making for a far more engaging listen.

Cuts like this make the most of his talent, and enjoyable as the club hits are, they don’t make for a cohesive full-length album. Most of the replay value comes from the rap-centric stuff, so your best bet is to give those tracks a listen and enjoy Wiley at his grimey best.

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