Wiley – The Chill Out Zone EP review

Wiley’s new EP lives up to it’s name… Sort of…

The Chill Out Zone’s soft, stoner-friendly beats, thick keyboard laden melodies and well written verses, perfectly executed in Wiley’s hazy English accent, are certainly chill inducing in both senses of the word. The majority of the songs are relaxing, easy to listen to, and would make for killer background beats for a laid back night in a smoke filled basement, puff-puff passing a gutted Swisher Sweet around a tight circle, laughing about nothing in particular. But if you can manage to stop hacking and coughing, long enough to listen to his lyrics you’ll find that they are anything but chill.

The first five tracks of “The Chill Zone” are deeply personal and heavy handed pieces, covering a menagerie of subjects ranging from war to the current and future state of rap, hip-hop, and even the meaning of life. The first five tracks on the album are some of the strongest, deepest, and artfully crafted tracks I’ve heard out of the UK hip-hop scene since Tricky.

Many will argue, and have argued, that Wiley has sold out, forgotten his roots, and cannot be counted as a member of the UK hip-hop elite. I vehemently disagree with this line of thinking. The beats may be softer, the instrumentation eclectic (at times, sounding as if they’d feel at home in a rain forest rather than on a hip-hop record), and there is a distinct lack of that familiar, fender dropping, door rattling, 808 bass drop we’ve all come to know and love.

Despite all of these very anti-hip-hop vibes Wiley retains the virgin-tight rhyme schemes, and needle-point precision flow that only the most elite  and genuine artists of the hip-hop world possess; skills that he flaunts and displays, with perfect aim and with pure, crystal clear, unadulterated talent, on track after track of “The Chill Out Zone”.

The first half of the album is indeed a powerhouse of emotion with strong, precise messages, as well as musical and vocal artistry. Tracks six through eleven however, fall short of such lofty praise. Though none of the songs are bad necessarily, they most definitely leave something to be desired, especially after the energy and fire of their five predecessors. Far too many of the songs are centered around relationships, love, and sex.

It’s Wiley’s positive demeanor and gentlemanly manner that lend his songs a sense of cheesy childishness. Though positivity, chivalry, and respect are timeless and endearing traits that all men worth their salt should possess; they seem to coat hip-hop songs in a sort of, squirmy awkwardness, akin to the sickeningly polite, well-groomed, virgin boy we all remember from grade school, who got his ass beat daily during recess. Rap and hip-hop songs should be tough, gritty, and without apology, like the tall greasy mean-mugged kid who, inexplicably, fucked every hot chick in school, despite treating them like thirteen year old street trash.

Overall “The Chill Out Zone” is a decent album, with well-crafted vocals, some great hooks, and a lot to say. Unfortunately, it is dragged, kicking and screaming, out to the playground, and beaten to a musical pulp, by its latter half. All of the heart, attitude, and energy of the first six tracks is watered down and degraded by the grade school romanticism, decade late beats, and bad sound FX lifted straight from your old 8 bit Nintendo console.

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