Reviewed by Robert Gabriel, Fri., Sept. 10, 2004
Treddin' on Thin Ice (XL) Picture a cockney penguin briskly waddling toward the edge of a glacier. Cold water invites the negotiation of his dive as the Wiley fellow breaks into an icy slide. "Eski beats" in tow, you can hear the little scoundrel babbling under his breath: "It's not garage." Neither is it grime, the volatile pedigree of fellow Londoner Dizzee Rascal. Wiley's Treddin' on Thin Ice is a fusion of electro-ragga-rap that's crisp and clean where others are dark, grungy. Maybe too clean, as Wiley's sanitized instrumentals rinse all conceptions of digi-warfare through a pop filter of safe simplicity. While claims that "no sound-boy is ever going to outclass me" may hold weight in more optimistic circles, Wiley's B-boy stance doesn't even seem to have the prerequisite chip on its shoulder. At times rudimentary in its appropriations of hip-hop culture, Wiley's lyrics border on Ali G-speak delivered with the predictability of a nursery rhyme. Yet there is something about songs such as "Wot Do U Call It?," "Special Girl," and "Pies" that at the very least has one imagining a more capable MC blowing them up. Indeed, it's unfair that such similar gems as Celestial's 2000 Def Con 4 remixes and 2003's Lil' Flip and Sucka Free Present 7-1-3 continue to be slept on in favor of the novelty of a disjointed perspective. Then again, one can hear the hypnotic pulse of Treddin' on Thin Ice's title track being bumped by even the toughest of hood critics.