Words: Cammy Thomas
The last time we were here examining the lyrical and stylistic shifts and transformations of a young grime MC dedicated to their craft, we delved deep into SBK’s growth between 2016 – 2020. This time we are gathered here today, to take a closer look at another young MC who appears to be bonded in matrimony; to holy grime.
Step up my fellow Coventry native, Skatta. The Coventry MC first came to my attention with his 2018 debut E.P ‘Flavourz’, a feisty 6 track E.P with bite sized bars coming in at a swift 11 minutes, this E.P is akin to interval training down the gym. ‘Flavourz’ is a dizzying, energetic and mostly bouncy E.P. I say mostly because when we come to ‘choppers in the sky’ the E.P takes a decidedly moody direction and becomes politically stark “F*ck Theresa, f*ck Trump, I got more sh*t to say, I ain’t done”. I think we can all agree the latter remains relevant a whole two years later! ‘Flavourz’ was a brilliant concept as each track on the E.P was 2-3 minutes long, allowing Skatta to give us quick, sharp bursts of his lyrical capabilities, providing a memorable introduction to his skippy flow over a variety of beats served up by producer Y-ETizm.
By the time we come to February’s 2020 ‘Fight Night Flows’ EP, Skatta’s growth is evident from the jump. Skatta seems comfortable using a slower flow to express himself, which is a welcome shift as we know he can spit double time bars as though his tongue is tap dancing over riddims. The opening track on this E.P ‘They Don’t Do’ showcases Skatta comfortably lingering over the riddim instead of blitzing through it. U.S rapper PRKR adds uniqueness to the track by lacing the opener with an auto-tuned hook, allowing Skatta’s experimentation to shine as he merges a UK and U.S rap sonic. Skatta invites PRKR back to spar in the ring, on the track ‘Title Shot’, completing the EP’s transatlantic arc.
Skatta goes all out to challenge himself on ‘Fight Night flows’, as here he invites 3 artists (PRKR, Kriptik and Tarju Le’Sano) to the bout, unlike ‘Flavourz’ where he was a lone MC. Not only has Skatta invited contenders to the fray to spray on this project, he has also chosen to work with an array of producers (Breaks, DJ Kdubz and Juberlee) giving the E.P differing moods throughout.
Stand out track on the E.P is ‘Down in One’, the track with no genre, contains a curious ‘clockwork orange’-esque countdown on the production. Skatta gives us another cleverly executed concept on his 2nd E.P and scores a first round K.O, as each track aligns with the effort, losses and wins experienced in his boxing career which also doubles up as metaphors about life we can all relate to.
On ‘Fight Night Flows’ closing track ‘Try’, Skatta juxtaposes his growth in his boxing and music careers, as he reflects “Every day I see growth, every day I reach goals…never been a loser, I ain’t been defeated”
Skatta’s latest offering ‘Hardships’ EP, is his bleakest release yet, as Skatta expertly manages to encapsulate the grim, dystopia of current times over the 7 track E.P. The cover art alone tells the story of which we have all been dragged into as unwitting participants over the last 6 months – a boat caught in the eye of the storm captained by Boris Johnson on the point of capsize, the boat attempts to regain balance and stability, before being lashed with a fresh wave of storms, chaos, and disruption.
The striking image compliments the opening and title track ‘Hardships’; forebodingly. The track ‘Hardships’ is Skatta’s call to arms, a rally cry in an effort to spark resistance against the gradual ebbing away of societies civil liberties and freedom of movement. Skatta is spot on with his observations regarding the “hardships, in a pandemic hitting them targets”, that there were times the hairs on my arm stood to attention when listening to the stark lyricism. Skatta goes on to state how we are all watching pre-planned agendas unfold, how we need to take action now by way of revolution to find a solution to the problems plaguing us – BLM, media manipulation, inequalities, death, crime, lockdown and draconian government restrictions. A terrifyingly accurate observation Skatta makes, is found on the second verse “Lockdown’s the way that they want it to be, if they could they would charge us to breathe, that’s why we get blocked whenever we speak, they want us locked up not walking free.” Skatta’s ability to conflate and articulate the physical and mental imprisonment we are all facing on differing levels, is jaw dropping and displays a maturity beyond his years.
Follow up track ‘Sprayground’ sounds like jaws on speed, so basically we have Sharknado on wax! Here, Skatta remembers he was king of the playground as a kid but now he’s grown sharp teeth “like jaws” enabling him to go up against his competitors on the mic. He compares his competition to baby sharks, a clever analogy for the sharp toothed savage lurking in the Sprayground! Super screw face riddim award goes to ‘Homage’, produced by my one time work mate, J-Fresh (shout out S60 mixtapes!) who creates a murkers riddim, complete with computer bleeps and a distorted B-line. Skatta invites a host of guest MC’s including LDizz, Kriptik and Clipson to spit over the filthy beat, the ragga flow takes the track next level, making ‘Homage’ a track guaranteed to go off in the rave.
“Cov to Brum, Brum to Cov, Cov to Notts, Notts to Cov, Cov to Manny, Manny to Cov, Cov to London, London to Cov”, the opening bars echo on ‘We Run Tings.’ In my mind this is a tribute to all young MC’s from outside grime’s hub in London, who travel tirelessly to perform all over the UK propelled by their passion and hunger. As Skatta reels off the names of cities he travels to, I’m reminded of Notts’ MC Mez telling us he’s been “Putting in so much work in London that his accents changing”, I’m also reminded of the fact Herts. MC SBK made a leap of faith for his passion, and recently moved from his home town to London.
I was also gassed to hear extremely talented Manchester MC, Oneda flex her bars as the only woman on this track. Skatta must be applauded for inviting regional MC’s like Oneda to spit on the track, as their outbursts have to be 10 times louder due to the fact they live on the outskirts of grime’s core.
On the track ‘King Kong’, Skatta showcases his substance, awareness and insight as an artist, as he ponders the effects on the youths minds, if the focal point of MC’s lyrics are based on violence, beef and postcode wars. Skatta demonstrates his growth over grime on this track, as he realises he has a responsibility to say something meaningful within his music to set an example to the youth listening. ‘No Machine’ warns up and coming artists’ against getting caught up in the music machine and to keep real ones close and to try and remain independent. The hook adds a new dimension to the project, as it is the only vocal on the E.P which is sung. Closing track – ‘Spooky’ sees Skatta retrace his steps to his past to 2001 where he was “In primary tryna be a don, 1 year later I’m in year 2 fightin’ with friends if we didn’t get a long.” I’m willing to bet Lady Godiva’s horse, this is when Skatta’s hunger for boxing began. We then learn over the sparse oriental-eski production, that Skatta was “11 in ’07 when he started spittin’ on grime.” The autobiographical track is a fitting close to a deep and poignant E.P, where we relish hearing Skatta explain in his own words – Growing over grime.
(Hail up Wretch 32 who gave me creative inspiration for the title of this 2 part piece, with his 2016 album release ‘Growing over Life’)