"A Grand Don’t Come For Free" (2004) by the Streets

Mike Skinner, better known as The Streets, is a distinctive, original, and kind-of decent North London rapper. His hooks are okay, his vocals aren’t that great but they work in the context, his beats are fine but it’s his lyrics that really stand out.

In A Grand Don’t Come For Free, Skinner raps about the struggles of everyday life – and, while a great deal of other rappers do that too, somehow Skinner’s lyrics stand out as being original and unique. And they are. From the hit “Fit But You Know It”, about a girl with way too much self-esteem; to “Dry Your Eyes”, about a guy who has been dumped by his girlfriend attempting to be consoled.

Skinner’s delivery is very rigid and not fluid at all, and while some critics may use this as a con, I believe that it adds to the record’s quirky charm and allows the listener to empathize with Skinner. Even though he has shown his aptitude for kind-of-funny-kind-of-serious songs about alcohol, weed, and life, it’s his emotional melancholy songs that stand out the most in this record. The clumsy vocal delivery and corny string sections should, you’d think, end up in the tracks being very cheesy and almost unlistenable, however the opposite is the case. The events described in the songs are all too familiar, and the clumsy vocals add to the listener’s emotional feeling.

The album runs with a story. It’s a simple story, but a story all the same, and it really works. When you hear Skinner lamenting about his shitty life in the first track, you laugh a little and sympathise with him. This connection then leads you to feel happy when he meets a girlfriend in track two, and throughout the rest of the record you feel along with Skinner as he describes his ups and downs.

While some songs are cringeworthy musically (“Get Out Of My House”), I wouldn’t have them changed for anything. The record takes you on an emotional ride that I haven’t heard in any other rap record, ever. When his girlfriend dumps him in “Dry Your Eyes”, and subsequent and final track describes his state being similar to that in the first track, it really makes you feel sorry and sad. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s just a very emotional album, and the fact that one can relate to it adds to the emotions.

From the dialogue filled tracks (“Fit But You Know It”, “Get Out Of My House”), to the emotional ones (“Dry Your Eyes”, “Blinded By The Lights”), A Grand Don’t Come For Free has Skinner let you into his life, and we should all thank him for inviting us. Musically, it’s decent. Vocally, it works. But lyrically, it’s amazing.

Choice tracks: It Was Supposed To Be So Easy, Blinded By The Lights, Dry Your Eyes


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