As a multi-faceted, quadruple threat artist, Skepta embodies a scene’s ability to shift on its own terms. The Tottenham-raised Londoner — a product of the area’s Meridian Estate after a move from east as a toddler— operated behind the scenes in grime’s early days with Meridian Crew in the early 2000s as a DJ and producer, providing a backbone for his Hackney-born younger brother JME to take the mic alongside legends of the industry during an era of lyrical war, with calls for clashes maintaining the raw energy. Behind the boards for 2002’s Wiley and Youngstar inspired Gun Shot Riddim and 2004’s Meridian Crew-affiliated classic Private Caller, Skepta helped define the culture for years to come.
Spitting on hip-hop beats before he ever entered the booth in grime circles, Skepta unleashed his rapid flow in the mid 2000s. As the white label era shifted into flash video and digital downloads, he built a sizeable fan base. Shouting out Meridian Crew and Hackney’s Roll Deep he stepped to the forefront alongside his brother, in the era of pixelated video on Nokia devices, street DVDs and Akademiks sweatsuits.
After his Boy Better Know collective emerged in 2005, Skepta’s 2006 classic Duppy was a crossover moment, as grime made its steps into the mainstream. His Stageshow Riddim was another beat that an entire scene hopped on before an array BBK bangers hit the mainstream. In addition to solo albums, he approached everything with a new hunger as a new decade approached.
Even for an artist with veteran status, 2014 was a breakthrough year. The self-produced That’s Not Me alongside JME embraced his legacy and beginnings in a track accompanied by an award-winning, appropriately micro budget video that homages the street DVD era. Having started his career deeply inspired by Wiley’s pioneering Eskibeats, Skepta produced another modern standard and return to raw form, On A Level, for him and stepped behind the camera to direct the video and style it too.
A decade into his MC career, Skepta is bringing his worldview to a global audience in undiluted form. His fourth album Konnichawa is the sum total so far and the evolution of everything so far and, with a local and international slew of partners in 2015, the takeover is imminent.