On Godfather, renowned British MC Wiley marks a triumphant end to his grime career with his eleventh and (supposedly) final studio album. Godfather ticks every box for a quality grime album: rapid fire comedic lyricism (with the occasional mention of the local Nandos), smooth speedy flows, and aggressive garage instrumentals, drum heavy, bass heavy, and horn heavy. Despite fulfilling every cliche of classic grime, Wiley’s experience as a veteran MC in the movement helps to propel Godfather above the typical release and earn itself a worthy place in any fan’s grime discography.
Wiley opens with the track Birds n Bars, a declaration of his lyrical prowess and his status as the proclaimed Godfather of grime.
I based my career on provin’ myself to non-believers
My name’s gonna ring bells to newspaper readers
Although beginning with moody and atmospheric vibes, the beat quickly leaps forward into aggressive rhythms that complement Wiley’s fast flows. Godfather rarely lets up the momentum throughout its tracklist, save for the late Skepta featuring track U Were Always, Pt. 2, a grime ballad in some sort of sense. From start to finish, Wiley stays on top of the beat, constantly spitting sixteens that today’s amateur grime MCs only wish they could write. Even with a beat switch halfway through the first track, Wiley changes up his flow while retaining the signatures of his classic style.
By the second track, Bring Them All / Holy Grime, Wiley brings in fellow MC Devlin to drop a pair of hard hitting verses.
X-Ray, make way for my death ray
Nikola Tesla reborn to a next stage
It’s these feature cuts that make Godfather especially poignant; Wiley’s influence on both grime and wider UK hip hop are evident in Devlin’s rhythm and lyricism, distinctive yet all owing to Wiley’s early presence in the movement. There’s no hook for this track, but no hook needed, as the pair’s long verses keep the song interesting atop layers of choir stabs and brass horn hits.
Name Brand is a real grime posse cut, featuring Jme, J2K, and Frisco joining Wiley in spitting over a bass heavy instrumental produced by Jme himself. With each MC bringing their signature energy to the track, it’s hard to decide who comes out on top. In Speakerbox and Back With A Banger, Wiley sticks with the momentum built on this track and stays sharp amidst a sea of hooks and British anxieties.
Godfather’s simultaneous strongest and weakest point is its instrumentals and production. While tracks Birds n Bars, Bring Them All / Holy Grime, and Like It Or Not stand out as interesting, atypical grime bangers, too many of these tracks find themselves fading into the background as repetitive and unmemorable. Especially by the album’s second half, only Wiley’s MCing manages to keep these tracks from being dull UK garage b-sides. Godfather is almost an hour in length – and it didn’t need to be.
Despite this, when a track stands out, it really shines. With a soulful sample forming the backing track, U Always Were, Pt. 2 provides a much needed contrast to the numerous bass heavy garage beats Wiley and friends are used to spitting over. Skepta and Belly join the crew in a romantic (as romantic as grime can get) sequel to the 2009 track U Were Always.
All them Victoria Secrets that you were keepin’
That’s not love, that’s breakin’ the rules
You think I’d never see those things you were tweetin’
Cut so deep, man couldn’t stop bleedin’
On both Joe Bloggs and Like It Or Not, Wiley crafts another pair of uptempo grime tracks that shape out Godfather’s second half. With kicks booming, claps bouncing, and hi hats rattling, there’s rarely a break or pause in the wall-to-wall flows of any of the multitude of rappers featured on this project. While rarely outshining him (save for Skepta and maybe Devlin), Wiley’s host of feature artists and fellow MCs help accentuate his flows and often provide a much needed break in the few cases where Wiley’s flows grow monotonous or uninteresting.
While not a perfect album, nor his best, Godfather finds itself a valuable spot in Wiley’s discography and proves that he is the true Godfather of grime in a resurgence of modern amateurs looking to play their hand in the grime circuit. Despite issues with length and stagnation, for anyone trying to get into UK hip hop, grime, or Wiley’s work, Godfather is a great place to start.