Review : Roll Deep - Winner Stays On
ContactmusicFor anyone who's been living under a rock for the last six months, the East London grime collective Roll Deep will waste no time in letting you know their story. Whilst on the surface it may have seemed like they're an overnight success, Winner Stays On's opening track - pithily entitled The Intro - sees the crew eager to let everyone know that in fact their breakthrough comes after a decade of less high profile slog in youth clubs and stages covered in old chewing gum across the country.
The album's cover depicts them being showered in confetti, and on listening you could be excused for viewing its sometimes undemanding contents largely as a victory lap. This is because the two number ones this year - the upliftingly hedonistic Good Times and Green Light - have elevated the whole to more than the sum of its parts for the first time, although the lyrical spliff references of the past have had to be replaced with more parent friendly mentions of Fosters. Despite the compromises, the overriding impression is that A list commercial success hasn't found them wanting.
It's an accessibility delivered off the back of nailing a boss sound which can now be regarded as the baseline for UK urban pop; cheesy synths and estuary rap, blended with trace elements of hip-hop, disco and dancehall. The addition of a female vocal counterpoint was this cocktail's missing puzzle piece, and along with the hits Winner Stays On's best moments all use this sense of balance, especially so on the ska chops of What Do They Know and the hyperextended squeaks of Take Control....full text
BbcAs an underground group with commercial ambitions, you face a difficult hurdle: how to take an original, boundary-shifting but sometimes unpalatable sound and break it into a mass audience without spoiling the integrity of what you do in the process? It’s a hurdle that Roll Deep faced back in 2005 with the release of their debut album, In at the Deep End. A grime crew forged in the east London neighbourhood of Bow, Roll Deep have seen now-popular names like Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, Tinchy Stryder and 1xtra DJ Target rise through its ranks. For …Deep End, though, it turned out that snappy grime numbers like When I’m ‘Ere lacked the commercial appeal of crossover tunes such as The Avenue and Shake a Leg.
Roll Deep, then, have evolved into a curious – albeit not terribly uncommon – thing: a grime crew that doesn’t play grime. Their fourth album, Winner Stays On, is, flagrantly, a pop album, and the good news is that they’re getting better at it. Good Times, which hit number one in the charts back in May, is excellent: a deliberately glitzy celebration of kicking up one’s heels, tales of high-street consumerism and clubbing propelled upwards on ecstatic synth bumps and a yearning chorus courtesy of Jodie Connor. Both Take Control (complete with a vocal from Alesha Dixon) and Green Light, a Calvin Harris-style pop bounce that wraps cheeky mating-game raps around a Green Cross Code-friendly metaphor, stick to a similar formula – and while this is obvious stuff, it’s certainly well-done.
Elsewhere, there are a couple of moments that hark back to Roll Deep’s grime genesis. Out the Blue finds Scratchy, Breeze, Brazen and Wiley dropping rhymes over booming sub-bass. And while Team is not exactly lyrically spectacular – it features Wiley’s habitual fall-back of ending every line with the same word – it smashes it through busy, zig-zagging synth and sheer force of numbers. More quality grime would be nice, but Winner Stays On proves Roll Deep are no longer an underground crew trying to make pop: the charts are there for the taking....full text
MirrorThe East End collective formed by Wiley are now on their fourth album and it's a variety package of wildly varying quality. Aimed firmly at the party hard consumer, invocations to spend and brand names abound among the beats and guest star slots. It don't mean a thing if you ain't got that bling....full text
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