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Bands to Watch: The Streets

By: Craig McLeanThe Loud Records A&R guy in New York City had been brutallydirect. Yes, he’d received Mike Skinner’s demo CD. No, he wasn’tinterested. “Why would I want this music from halfway across theworld,” the guy asked Skinner, “when I can get it here, on a streetcorner?”

“That was the turning point in my life,” explains Skinner, a 23-year-old English rapper/producer known as the Streets. For his debut,Original Pirate Material, the hip-hop- obsessed Skinner abandoned initial attempts to reimagine his hometown of Birmingham as Wu-TangClan’s Staten Island, New York. Instead, he moved to Brixton and took inspiration from the U.K. garage scene, deploying fruity cockneyslang over propulsive bedroom beats. Skinner writes about the life he knows: fast food, lager louts, sneaker snobbery, and lots of drugs.The album (short-listed for the U.K.’s prestigious Mercury Music Prize) is a blast of oxygen from the hard-partying British inner city.

“It’s fine if Americans hear my accent and think ‘Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins‘–a quaint English guy who’s really funny,” says theman inevitably dubbed “the British Eminem.” “It doesn’t matter where you’re from. Everyone can identify with someone who’s trying toshag girls and have a good time–if he’s doing it honestly.”