With his third album, The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living, out this week, British rapper and garage pioneer the Streets (a.k.a. Mike Skinner) met up with Rolling Stone to talk about the record.
The follow-up to 2004’s A Grand Don’t Come for Free — a concept album about a week or so in the life of a hard-up, hard-partying bloke — is a more autobiographical album, with the rapper confessing to cocaine binges and a nasty gambling habit. But The Hardest Way is no rambling tell-all: Skinner’s writing method is incredibly precise. “I know exactly how many songs are going to be on the album, and that’s the amount that I write,” he says. “I don’t just kind of write songs, I write the album.”
While Skinner’s sound is tighter and faster this time around, he admits that while recording the record, “I was listening to more Johnny Cash, more country than ever. Just ’cause I really like the words . . . I think I’ve kind of got used to the music now.”
He adds that most of his influences are American — from Jimi Hendrix to the some of the titans of East Coast hip-hop, the Wu-Tang Clan and Jay-Z. And while there’s a real taste for American hip-hop in the U.K., he says, the bling-heavy lifestyle doesn’t go over as well.
“I don’t think we really like the idea of success in England so much. We’re not as kind of happy with it as I think maybe the Americans are, so there’s a guilt that comes with success,” he says. “But then I just think, ‘Well, I’ve worked really hard. So sod it.'”