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
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

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

More Song Stories entries »