If it seems like Mike Skinner’s been away from the game for a spell, it’s because he has been. The British hip-hop maestro, celebrated for his tales of working class banality with The Streets, has been sidelined from recording and touring with chronic fatigue issues, but listening to his new dance-influenced project The D.O.T., it would certainly seem he’s gotten the best of whatever’s been ailing him.
Whereas The Streets propped Skinner up front and center as your typical blunt-blazing bloke next door, The D.O.T., the rapper’s collaboration with The Music’s Rob Harvey, finds Skinner taking a back seat behind the boards working largely on the production end of life. As such, And That, the duo’s debut, is a new animal for both artists. While Skinner keeps to some of the bouncy, dub-influenced sounds he championed with the Streets (“You Never Asked”), the record takes some decidedly different turns into more dance and electronic-themed territory, and both Harvey and Skinner benefit from shaking things up.
The Streets and The Music both faced relatively meek exits, so it makes perfect sense that And That pops off with rejuvenated flavor. “Weapon Of Choice” fist bumps along with poppy panache, exhibiting a worldly, Talking Heads-style influence, while other tracks like “Shut Up and Keep Talking” flash with ’80s new wave inspiration.
Gone is the lion’s share of the doped-up, cartoonish charm of A Grand Don’t Come For Free, but in its place is a more eclectic, mature sound befitting a few guys shedding their sophomoric skin. If Skinner needed the change of pace, he got it here. Fortunately his new musical lease on life suits him just fine.
Essential Tracks: “Weapon of Choice”, “Shut Up and Keep Talking”