Wiley

Treddin' on Thin Ice
(XL)

"Wot d'you call it, gahhh-ridge? Wot d'you call it, uhhhr-bin? Wot d'you call it, tewww-step?" So gently pokes impish English MC/producer Wiley at the beginning of "Wot Do U Call It," the third track on his solo debut, Treddin' on Thin Ice. Like it or not, Wiley understands, his captivating, cheeky (if cut-rate) combination of post-jungle/electro beats, conspicuous Nintendo samples, ragga bass, pop-R&B synth cheese, and Brit-crunk vocal play (his tone and flow often hits like Ludacris transported to an East London chip shop) needs a name to connect with the masses: He calls it Eski-beat; everyone else calls it grime.

While last year's super-manic, much-lauded Boy in da Corner by Wiley protg Dizzee Rascal (both were members of the U.K.'s Roll Deep Crew, sort of the grime Wu-Tang Clan) lifted the genre out of the underground, Treddin' nods and smiles at the mainstream with a slightly smoother version of that Eski sound. Excepting a misstep or two -- notably the corny, boot-knockin' "Special Girl" -- Wiley does well in balancing catchiness with quirkiness, especially on the arrestingly anxious "Goin' Mad" and the more playful "Pies." Call it whatever you like, but Treddin' sounds like the work of an international star in the making.

 
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