Is it really here? For real? Fans of the East London grime giant, Wiley, have been patiently waiting for the sequel to his 2017 studio album Godfather. And while his return last year may have been praised by some as the savior of grime, this new release, Godfather II, see’s Wiley taking a break to try and save pop instead?
Initially, the album’s main flaws are almost unnoticeable. Serving as an introduction to the project, Merkers is punchy and urgent, with Wiley’s crunchy vocals drip energy; it’s exactly the start the project needed. Continuing to channel that same moody London strength is a spew of singles, including I Call The Shots and the violin filled beat of Remember Me, which both manage to depict Wiley with a healthy balance of humility and ego. Switching between claiming the title of Godfather and lobbying fans to remember his legacy, the lyrics throughout the project adopt a sense of self awareness, perhaps as a result of his peer Stormzy’s recent releases that have found incredible success with a similar conscious tone. Fellow Boy Better Know member JME spits a witty, distinctly British verse, on I Call The Shots, even managing to reference Ofsted while outperforming Wiley’s mediocre lyricism.
Less aware listeners may feel betrayed by Spotify autoplay for playing Wiley’s pop hits from the noughties, before it hits them; these are tracks on Godfather II. For someone who claims that any grime number one hit is a pop track, sixth track, Certified, is a textbook stab at a summer hit, with a fruity, tropical beat and melodic vocals from Shakka. If it was released by an an artist who prefers to dominate the Billboard charts rather than the streets of London, it may be a decent summer single; but it’s not. Instead, it’s a sweaty, anxious flashback to a previous Wiley that created cold, soulless tunes like Heatwave and Wearing my Rolex. Proving it’s a standard, not an anomaly with tracks like Over It and Still Standing, the final two thirds of the album sags, significantly.
As a project, Godfather II creates more questions than it answers. If the first five tracks were an EP, or if it wasn’t named after such a legendary project, it may have been less egregious. But as it stands, Wiley’s twelfth studio album is a soulless cash grab that is peppered with a couple of hard singles, and is ultimately let down by an onslaught of sub-par pop tracks. The seventh track ‘Still Standing’ ponders “How am I still standing here?”, and spoiler alert; Godfather II won’t be the answer.