The 25 Best Skepta Songs

The 25 Best Skepta Songs


Skepta‘s back catalogue is astonishing in both scale and quality. Sure, there’s been a couple of blips, but it’s statistically impossible to run that long and not take a couple of wrong turns. He’s given us club bangers, introspective cuts and anthems for growing up. From his early days DJing and in Meridian Crew, his work with Roll Deep, Boy Better Know and, of course, his own solo tracks, his style has been both versatile and consistent—not an easy feat to pull off. When we decided to put together a list of his highlights, the main challenge was cutting down. To do this correctly we had to take in to account his own iconic riddims (“D.T.I.”, “Private Caller”), solo cuts for other producers (“Intensive Snare”) and the vast list of hits no one in the UK will forget for a long, long time.

With an artist whose history is so inextricably linked, not just to London, but to the UK, it’s impossible to talk about him without talking about your personal experiences. Skepta has been the soundtrack to our ups, our downs, our relationships, break-ups and, in some cases, the much needed bridge between ourselves and people we thought were lost to us forever. Skepta talks about the UK in terms we can understand. He talks about Oyster cards, about being so broke the only way you can get through the day is luck. He talks about fake friends and real ones, about everything from corrupt politicians and our place in the world right through to linking that ting on the back of the bus and people getting robbed for their phones. He gets us and, we hope, we get him.

Now that we’re officially into Konnichiwa season, we decided to look back at Skepta’s contributions to the grime scene. Here are his 25 greatest songs (so far).

25. “Sweet Mother” (2007)

I made my mother listen to “Sweet Mother” on Mother’s Day, and she cried. Like, real, genuine tears. She’s never been one to give hugs and kisses, but this funky-pinched bubbler made her an emotional wreck and, for that reason, this song to me will always mean more than most of Skepta’s back catalogue. In my dumb, adolescent years, and as someone one who once felt like the world was on his shoulders, me and my mum never got along; she moved me away from my family and friends in the city for a more peaceful life in the countrybut I couldn’t comprehend. Looking back on it now, though, that was the probably the best thing she’s ever done for me. Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson

Sweet mother, I never forget you / For the suffering you suffer for me

24. “Mastermind” f/ Etta Bond (2012)

“Mastermind”, and Blacklisted as a whole, redirected Skepta back into a less commercial sound. Soul singer Etta Bond’s distorted, layered vocals contribute to the bass-fuelled, cloudy production that forms an atmosphere to explore the spitter’s cannabis psychosis. While in parts he sounds like he’s totally tripping out, the mastermind’s at work here as he flips the sonic script on this experimental gem. As a project and point in time, Blacklisted marked a major shift in Skepta’s career, one that saw him move a touch to the left and explore new territory. Laura ‘Hyperfrank’ Brosnan

23. “Nokia Charger Wire” (2008)

Skepta was a war-ready emcee—still is, to some degree (see: “Nasty”)—and cuts like “Nokia Charger Wire” worked as strong ammunition in his gritty arsenal. There’s a reason 25-and-overs who usually listen to road rap rock with Skepta’s music: he’s able to simultaneously gas them up (I want a skeng that’s looong, like my Nokia charger wire) and give them something to gunfinger along to. This Been There Done That track had clubland on its head in 2008. —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson

22. “We Begin Things” f/ Megaman (2012)

Skepta and Megaman unite and give a futuristic nod to “Ride Wid Us”, the So Solid Crew classic. If you listen closely, you can even hear Junior’s younger sisterBeats 1’s Julie Adenugalace the vocals under the skippy chorus. In the final verse, Skepta sprays: I keep telling them that I’m gonna blow like woah. This confidence and persistence is a reminder of the energy he and his squad have invested into grime and it’s about time they started to reap the rewards. —Laura ‘Hyperfrank’ Brosnan

21. “Ace Hood Flow” (2012)

Blacklisted‘s “Ace Hood Flow” was years ahead of its time. The eerie, minimal production was a breath of fresh air in grime and now, in 2016, many producers are still just catching up. More like a mission statement than a club track (although it seriously knocks in a club), “Ace Hood Flow” set out Skepta’s plans to take back control of the scene from MCs hopping on American hip-hop, stripping out everything but the best and putting grime back on top with tough beats and a pride in being British. And you know what? That’s precisely what he did with “That’s Not Me” (more on that later). A lot of emcees talk about their big plans, but very few can execute them so perfectly. —James Keith

20. “Are You Ready?” f/ Wiley (2009)

I remember the Microphone Champion era like it was yesterday. Fans on forums were worried the album would be a complete pop-dripping mess, following chart-attempting songs like “Rolex Sweep” and “Sunglasses At Night”, but (thankfully) that was far from the case. A highlight from the album, “Are You Ready?” featured then-nemesis Wiley on the hook (he too released an album, Race Against Time, in June 2009) with Skepta boastfully riding Rude Kid’s alien grime beat to warn off all lyrical competition. Joseph Jr. Adenuga proved a lot of people wrong with this project. Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson​

19. “Oh My Gosh” (2009)

Yet another instance where Skepta and Jme have come together to produce great results, on “Oh My Gosh” Jme provides a bouncy yet awkward, lo-fi riddim that definitely sits at the minimal end of grime while Skepta sounds off about sitting in a cell on a blue mat, no blanket, yawning. Whether you’ve been arrested before or not, we can all relate to that moment of realisation when it dawns on you the scale of your screw-up, or that you keep making the same screw-ups. Don’t get it twisted: this isn’t some deep “I got issues, man” thing. There’s a wry humour to “Oh My Gosh”, the same humour that has endeared the Adenuga brothers to basically the whole entire world. —James Keith

18. “Look Out” f/ Giggs (2009)

If you dig deep enough, you can find recordings of Peckham rapper Giggs over grime beats, but by the time 2009’s Microphone Champion came around, he was the undisputed king of UK rap. Seemingly intent on staying in his own lane, Skepta decided that, in order to secure a feature from Hollowman, he’d have to meet him there and did so by jumping on a Boom production. “Look Out” was essentially Skepta featuring on a Giggs cut, which was only placed on a Skepta album. Not to downplay the track, a competent, street anthem at that, but the greater significance of “Look Out” came years later. Tobi Oke

17. “Nasty” (2015)

For a demonstration of how lyrical wars can quickly spiral out of control, with strays simultaneously claiming victims and drawing others into the melee, simply look to 2015’s Chip vs Bugzy saga. A brief mention of Skepta’s now-legendary Lord Of The Mics clash with Devilman was all it took to re-awaken the Birmingham MC, who replied to Chip, and, as usual, had a few words for Skepta as well. In no mood for playing games, the Boy Better Know rhymer put an end to the decade-long back and forth, hopping on Wiley’s “Morgue” riddim and burying Devilman with “Nasty”. Opening out with a light jab at Chip, it seems the two have since straightened out any issues, given Chip’s feature on Konnichiwa. Devilman, on the other hand, may never be heard of again. Tobi Oke

16. “Greatest Hits” (2007)

As the title track of Skepta’s debut album, it was the listing of his already weighty catalogue of vocals and instrumentals which truly highlighted his contribution the scene. If Skepta’s career were to have ended at this point, he’d have already delivered enough for a Greatest Hits collection. Managing to elevate to even greater heights, on the verge of his fourth and quite possibly his career-defining album, a track that once had him labelled as arrogant and brash turned out to be 100% correct. Tobi Oke

15. “Top Boy” (2015)

“Top Boy” was made specifically for Skepta’s Tim Westwood Mix, a 19-track, tightly-woven journey through the grime star’s last few years in music, which accompanied a mini documentary to boot. Punchier than “Shutdown”, with its almost cartoonish soundscape, “Top Boy” was just as catchy (and boasty) and deserved just a little more time to stick on us. Skepta recently confirmed that he’s working with Ashley Walters and Drake on the new series of Top Boy, the British TV drama, so maybe all is not lost for this potential theme tune. Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson​

14. “Fuckin’ Widda Team (Remix)” (2006)

Years on from when the scene’s top MCs regularly joined each other on sets and tracks, as reputations were formed and established, just as fiercely were they guarded in the years that followed. Around this time, Skepta boldly invited Kano, Wiley, Ghetto and Scorcher to remix “Fuckin’ Widda Team”, foreshadowing the coming years in which he would do battle with Ghetto and Wiley, and single-handedly take on The Movement. Unsaid but entirely understood, all five indirectly went to war with the rest in a battle for supremacy, with each MC’s status in the big boy league at stake. With all of them bringing their A-game, the debate on who had the best verse is one I quite honestly no longer want any parts of. The original, in all fairness, is perhaps one of Skepta’s best solo tracks. But the remix just edges the nod. Tobi Oke

13. “Mike Lowery” (2010)

The “Mike Lowery” instrumental dominated the grime scene in 2010, and 2011: Wiley, P Money, Stormzy, Jme, and every other top-tier MC you can think of has laced the trap-tinged, sub-aqautic bass roller with bars aimed at their haters and naysayers. Appearing on Skepta’s 2011-dropped album, Doin’ It Again, this was a golden moment for the man from Meridian and one that will keep on shining. —Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson​

12. “I Spy” f/ Jammer (2007)

Inspired by a b2b set he did with Jme over Rebound X’s “Rhythm & Gash”, Skepta wrote “I Spy” with added hype bars from Jahmek “Jammer” Power. He opens up the track with a highly flammable verse—My crew put five £20 notes in a roulette machine and spin them / Anybody get rude I’ll clench my fist and chin them—lyrics he previously used for rave and radio reloads. The R&G production is now cemented as being a key riddim in grime, with remixes from the likes of Murlo, Spyro, and Flava D. —Laura ‘Hyperfrank’ Brosnan

11. “Single” (2005)

This Friday night anthem was made for single ladies all across the land. Lacing Wiley’s icy instrumental, “Ice Cream Man”, Skepta first released “Single” on vinyl before adding it to his Greatest Hits LP. While it’s not one of his most popular tracks, the light-hearted offering was mixed into many sets at early Eskimo Dance and Sidewinder raves to draw women up on the dancefloor. Skepta: the gentleman. In full flow. —Laura ‘Hyperfrank’ Brosnan

10. “In A Corner” f/ Trigga, Spyda, Flow Dan (2007)

“In A Corner” is one of the heaviest, hardest tracks Mr. Adenuga has ever put his name to. Over a futuristic D&B production, Skepta, then Trigga and finally Flowdan take turns jumping in with harder and harder bars. Despite the toughness, however, this is a straight-up party banger: I don’t wanna hear no talk about straps / The only thing I wanna pop is champagne / Until I collapse. “In A Corner” remains a criminally slept on tune, but, then again, even someone like Skepta has to have a couple of deep cuts up his sleeve to surprise a crowd. —James Keith

9. Plastician — “Intensive Snare” f/ Skepta (2007)

Skepta and Plastician have worked together a couple times since meeting at legendary dub-cutting factory Music House, but I doubt “Intensive Snare” could ever be improved on. Unless you were at FWD>> on a Thursday night, grime MCs on dubstep-style beats was yet to be the fashionable thing and this powerhouse of a tune features some of Skepta’s best lyrics. The English teacher tried to make me hoover strikes me as memorably as some of his classic lines and with a hook just as grabbing, this collaboration is up there with grime’s best. —Frankie Mines

8. “It Ain’t Safe” f/ A$AP Bari (2014)

Sometimes a song strikes a chord with us because of the way it sounds, and sometimes it’s because of what it represents as a cultural moment in time. In the case of “It Ain’t Safe”, it was both. Sure there have been plenty of collabs between grime MCs and rappers but, typically, it was on the MC to adjust their style. This time, it was the other way round, and worked out exceptionally well. “It Ain’t Safe” remains a potent snapshot of life on the streets. And then there’s the sludgey, sparse production that took a couple of cues from the druggy haze of trap and translated them into the language of grime. To go with that bone-crunching production, Skepta and A$AP Bari (aka Young Lord) delivered hard-hitting bars that made one thing absolutely clear: grime is back and it’s not going to put a foot wrong or compromise for anyone. —James Keith

7. “Duppy” f/ Trim, Wiley, Creed, Jme, Jammer, Footsie, Bossman, Bearman (2006)

Originally released in 2006 (it would later appear on his Greatest Hits album the following year), “Duppy” was the tune that cemented Skepta’s reputation as both MC and producer. He’d already proven himself proficient at both, but this was something else. With a grand total of nine (yes, nine) MCs trading quick bars back and forth, there wasn’t much time to flex that lyrical muscle, but the production is so iconic you really don’t need to. Just like “DTI” and “Private Caller”, this has become the gold standard of grime instrumentals, one that any self-respecting spitter needs to lace at least once in their lifetime. —James Keith

6. “Man”

One of the last tracks to be previewed before the release of Konnichiwa​, “Man” was a robust reassurance of the album’s consistency. As soon as you hear “Man”, two lines leap out: I was like ‘Nah sorry man, I only socialize with the crew and the gang‘ and My mum don’t know your mum / Stop telling everyone you’re my cousin. And that’s to say nothing of the production: mixing the eerie, clipped guitar melody of Queens Of The Stone Age’s “Regular John” (a brilliantly leftfield choice of sample) with punching, club-ready bass for an even-paced club heater for the crowd to scream back in a rave. —James Keith

5. “DTI (Pirate Station Anthem)” (2003)

Appropriately labelled “Pirate Radio Anthem”, “DTI” is one of grime’s earliest tracks to earn the description of legendary. An essential record for any self-respecting DJ playing raves or radio during that era, Skepta’s production talents were slightly more hard-hitting than the Eski-influenced or sinogrime rhythms floating around and suited aggressive MCs to a tee (see Esco demonstrating just that). With Konnichiwa around the corner, it’s a touch that the Department of Trade & Industry didn’t manage to cut off his signals back in the day. —Frankie Mines

4. “Private Caller” (2005)

Dropped during the golden era of grime, “Private Caller” ticks several boxes required to qualify as an undeniable classic. On production duties here only, Skepta crafted the rowdy instrumental and introduced, for the first time, his younger brother Jme (rocking the durag, of course), Scorcher (who spat a wicked 8-bar without rhyming?!), Frisco (name spelt with an E in the video), President T (who hasn’t aged a day since) and Meridian Dan (who had one of the all-time great one-line flows). As his first major contribution to the scene, released just over a decade ago, “Private Caller” showcased not only Skepta’s prowess behind the boards, but also behind the scenes. —Tobi Oke

3. “Castles” (2012)

Skepta’s versatility has given us anthems for the raves, airwaves and—for some, even the charts—but the Blacklisted mixtape gave listeners a whole next level of consciousness, with “Castles” being one of the highlights. “Underdog Psychosis” was the much-needed post-commercial version of Skepta we craved for and “Castles”‘ dreamy production, combined with his observational lyrics, makes for absorbing listening. —Frankie Mines

2. “Shutdown” (2015)

Most likely to become the first tune that pops into most minds when asking for Skepta, “Shutdown” truly is a modern masterpiece. From the boast-laced lyrics to the blistering rhythm, it epitomises the journey from pirate radio to casually chilling with the likes of Drake and Kanye West that many wouldn’t have predicted seven or eight years back. Rightly applauded by everyone with any sense, “Shutdown” had topped many lists by the end of 2015 and earned Skepta the praise he must have yearned for since the days of “Private Caller”. —Frankie Mines

1. “That’s Not Me” f/ Jme (2014)

“That’s Not Me” crept up on the entire grime scene in 2014 and cemented the groundwork laid by Blacklisted: the final nail in the coffin for the Ed Hardy-endorsing, Rolex sweeping emcee who had previously lingered. It marked the beginning of a new Skepta, an artist who was no longer going to conform to what the industry (or, indeed, society) considered to be the “norm.” He goes straight for the jugular over his own nostalgic production that blends everyone’s favourite old-school grime sounds and with a chorus as recognisable as this one, “That’s Not Me” simply demands respect. —Frankie Mines