I’m going to volunteer an unpopular opinion: Ignorance Is Bliss, Skepta’s latest release, is a better album than the Mercury Prize-winning Konnichiwa. I don’t want to hear any objections. This record is exactly what we need right now, an antidote to the relentless political commentary from all corners of popular culture, a return to grime that is about pushing the street level experience of London — of life — into frenetic, aggressive, joyful noise. Skepta sets his intention with the opening line (“Big smoke SK style” he spits on the bouncy first track ‘Bullet From A Gun’), and he doesn’t let up: this is the personal, the everyday, the iPhone, screw-face, tag on the ankle, beef with your old mates, becoming a father, fucking women who don’t really love you London. That old skool grime battle energy (especially on ‘Gangsta’ and ‘Redrum’) and the frequent references to Dizzee’s Boy in da Corner suggest that not much has changed on the ground, whatever the advances of social media, or Skepta’s own life.
There’s something striking about the way that Ignorance Is Bliss hits the centre of our contemporary dissatisfaction. Its repeated interrogations of the frustrations of sex and dating lay bare the difficult truth that although all we’re looking for is connection, it’s often impossible to find. The icy grime beats serve the perfect canvas to explore why this might be. “Truth is I’m so cold I’m frozen”, Skepta tells us on ‘Same Old Story’, “Too many times my heart has been broken”. Although my favourite is the sprawling ‘Love Me Not’, with the gravelly B-Live and Cheb Rabi cameos and the Sophie Ellis Bextor sample, that conveys, just perfectly, what it feels like to try and fall in love right now, in a city where we’ve pretty much all been rendered incapable of loving anything except our own mediated image, and the thought that someone else might find it sexy.