Richard Cowie. Wiley. Eskiboy. The Godfather of Grime. Birth name or moniker, the history runs deep. With over 15 years of groundbreaking production under his Prada belt, snappy lyrics and a flow that happily sits on any beat, his reputation as stalwart of the underground scene is undoubtedly deserved.
While the commercial world has saluted him for tracks like top 10 smash 'Wearing My Rolex', 'Cash In My Pocket' and Roll Deep hits 'Shake A Leg' and 'The Avenue', to his fiercely loyal fanbase it's just the icing on the cake. The trends that he's spurred are countless and he's one of the most in demand producers and MCs the UK has ever bred.
In 1999, when Wiley (an alias he adopted from Thundercats) saw his first major label release, 'Nicole's Groove', made under the guise Phaze One, it was as the doors on garage as we knew it were closing. With his crew Pay As U Go, their debut single 'Champagne Dance' marked a shift towards a new sound. Two years down the line, when Wiley and fellow east Londoner Dizzee Rascal were championing their new crew, Roll Deep, running club stages across the UK, no one realised that this still unnamed sound would go on to shape and define a generation.
With the birth of grime came Wiley's greatest era, that of ice-cold Eski sounds, the trademark frosty snares and glidy basslines, inspired by his penchant for winter and acting as an outlet for the darker periods of his life. Certified classics like 'Snowman', 'Eskimo' and 'Avalanche' inspired and propelled a generation of aspiring producers to keep moving through the hard times. His rave Eskimo Dance and DVD series further cemented his king pin status.
After selling over 100,000 records out of his car boot, in 2004 he signed to XL Recordings, releasing his first solo album, Treddin' On Thin Ice. But it became apparent that Wiley's work on the underground wasn't done. He put out his next album Da 2nd Phaze independently, and keen to continue mentoring the stars of tomorrow, he went on to fund projects for Tinchy Stryder and Ruff Sqwad, and introduced pirate radio, it's listeners and beyond to the likes of Boy Better Know. Way before Simon Cowell was trying to bell Chipmunk, Wiley took the then 16-year-old schoolboy to appear on Tim Westwood's Radio 1 show, and with the video quickly notching up over a million views there was no contesting Wiley once again had had his ear to the ground when it came to MCs with a
Further deals ensued as he joined Roll Deep in the charts with 'Avenue' and 'Shake A Leg', taken from the gold-selling album In At The Deep End, and signed another solo deal with Big Dada, releasing Playtime Is Over. Moving in to 2008, Wiley found himself experimenting with a new sound and a new label home at Asylum, with his album See Clear Now. 'Wearing My Rolex' saw his highest chart position, debuting at number two, while the follow-up single 'Cash In My Pocket' went on to sell over 250,000 copies. Keen to take a break and go back to his grime roots, he proceeded to put out his next album, Race Against Time, on his own label, Eskibeat Recordings.
Where live performances are concerned, Wiley's gone from headlining his own raves to tearing up the main stage at Glastonbury with Hot Chip, supporting the likes of Jay-Z and 50 Cent in concert and touring Australia, Singapore and beyond.
Legendary grime figurehead Wiley has unveiled ‘Call The Shots’, the first track from forthcoming album ‘Godfather II’.
Fresh off the back of his multi-award winning album ‘Godfather’, Wiley has spent much of 2017 garnering the biggest accolades in the industry. Recognised by several of the biggest names and publications in music for his innovation, Wiley has been the subject of widespread critical acclaim in 2017, with ‘Godfather’ serving as one of the most seminal productions of recent years.
With his status reaffirmed as an innovator of the genre, ‘Call The Shots’ acts as a cleverly lyricised follow-up tale of his rise to power. A production boosted by bass-heavy chords and brooding overtones, Wiley’s typically sharp lyrics lace the track with a stream of bars filled with quips that only he can confidently boast. Joined by JME, the latter’s laid back delivery and candid bars serve as the perfect counter-punch.
‘Call The Shots’ continues Wiley’s musical journey post the critically acclaimed ‘Godfather’ album as a pioneer, a mentor, crew member and innovator, and is set for release on 3rd November - the day after his eagerly anticipated autobiography Eskiboy, with new album ‘Godfather II’ set to drop in early 2018.