Words by Clarence MacEbong
After displaying an ability to diversify and show a more jovial side on singles like “Bad Energy”, “Sheevita Juice” and a guest appearance on Boj’s “Like To Party”, Skepta makes a return to his grime roots on his new album Ignorance is Bliss. The Prodigal Son spent the better part of the past year-and-a-half taking a detour to make time for his sneaker line with Nike, generating buzz amongst both fans and media alike about his relationship with Naomi Campbell, as well as becoming a father. All this happened while reconnecting with his Nigerian background with frequent trips into the country, as well as two largely successful editions of his annual Homecoming festival which began in 2018 in a bid to showcase Nigerian culture to the world; and he’s been given a very warm welcome, almost as if he never left.
With most of the project being self-produced, the album’s intro “Bullet from a Gun” is a bravado-coated retrospective look at how far he’s come over a xylophone kit and a subtle bass. He also touches the flimsiness of human loyalty and a total lack of it in a girl that can’t be trusted when he says “when you realize she was never your girl/it was just your turn.”
The follow-up track though, titled “Greaze Mode” features wavy vocals from Nafe Smallz and encourages euphoric misbehavior through its heavy bass and Skepta’s inciting lyrics about breaking laws and banks. “Redrum” follows in the same vein as the track arrangement was designed to maintain the intensity and keep the listener hooked. On this track, Skepta reminds us that your success is just as effective as guns and knives in murdering your ops. On “What Do You Mean?” we are glad to welcome J-Hus who gives a chorus characteristic of his craft that has made him so popular and such a household name since the release of Common Sense.
His lyrical dexterity and ability to paint pictures that are very relatable is shown on “Same Old Story.” Here, Skeppy gives his two cents on love, relationships and why they fail; the rush for “relationship goals” and all its superficial aspects, wrong choices of partners and sometimes, the relationship just reaches the end of the road. Nigerian music industry juggernaut Wizkid participates in a melodious duet with Lay-Z on the chorus of “Glow In The Dark” and assist Skepta in giving a track full of good vibrations, although the hitch is it is a bit difficult to tell the difference between the voices in the chorus. “You Wish”, “Gangsta” and 2018 single “Pure Water” line up to give a high intensity end to the project.
Skepta uses his guest artists to pass his message: they conform to the sound that he wants, none of them ever deviating from the topic that each track is intended to portray. His decision to resist the temptation of having an afro-beat song on his album (seeing as he had a lot of contact with Nigerian musicians and became more accustomed to the African sound over the past few months) proved to be a very wise one, as it would have made the project come off as inauthentic, and watered down the effect that Ignorance is Bliss is intended to have. Even though songs like “No Sleep” and “Gangsta” might come off as a bit too monotonous and hardcore for the average listener, it would be very difficult for someone open-minded enough to accept new sounds to dispute the quality of Skepta’s art.
After so many years in the industry and at the ripe age of 36, the rapper from Tottenham seems to have found another gear. Sure, it took quite a while for this release to surface after Konnichiwa, but quality can not be rushed. And, although we don’t know what his plans for the near future are, Skepta has shown why he’s still one of the top MCs around, and he can now go back to watching the game from a bird’s eye view.