The Streets Keep It Interesting

The drugged-out, thugged-out world of Mike Skinner

October 21, 2002 12:00 AM ET

British hip-hop isn't an oxymoron anymore. Thanks to a twenty-three-year-old London MC named Mike Skinner, a.k.a. the Streets, the life of industrial England now resonates in the same way as that of, say, Queens or South Central. Which wasn't really the plan. "I'm surprised how many people, besides people from my city, get into it," Skinner says of his debut, Original Pirate Material. "Even people in England say, 'Why do we want to hear about ourselves?' "

Material presents Skinner's streets as a mosaic of drunken louts, stoned PlayStation addicts and urban turmoil. He delivers the gritty details in a story-driven, first-person narrative that recalls the best work of another white inner-city kid, Eminem, while incorporating enough garage and dub beats to satisfy the rave culture. And in that cheeky British way, it's pretty much a huge laugh.

"Life isn't that interesting," he says unapologetically. "So I'd rather lie or make something up interesting in my head." The soft-spoken rapper spent most of his childhood in London and Birmingham standing behind fast-food counters. A lost year in Australia, a few broken hearts and a mushroom binge in Amsterdam inspired some of Material's more truthful tales of excess, but for the most part Skinner prefers his local pub and general isolation.

A recent backstage run-in with Blur/Gorillaz singer Damon Albarn only confirmed Skinner's desire to keep things mundane. "I didn't really know who he was," Skinner says. "He was just like, 'Welcome to being famous' or something. . . . I was just like, 'Oh, shut up, you pansy.' He seems all right, but he's just a different kind of person from me. I kinda get on the train and go see my girlfriend and get on with makin' the music."

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“Whoomp! (There It Is)”

Tag Team | 1993

Cecil Glenn — a.k.a., "D.C." — was a cook at Magic City, a nude dance club in Atlanta, when he first heard women shout "Whoomp — there it is!" Inspired by the party chant, he and partner Steve "Roll'n" Gibson wrote a song around it. Undaunted by label rejections, they borrowed $2,500 from Glenn's parents and pressed 800 singles, which quickly sold out in the Atlanta area. A record deal came soon after. Glenn said the song was meant for positive partying. "If you're going to say 'Whoomp there it is,' and you're doing something negative, we'd rather it not have come out of your mouth."

More Song Stories entries »