If this is Wiley’s concluding chapter to not only his Godfather trilogy but his studio career, then you can’t say that he hasn’t thrown everything at it.
The 22-song track list might appear gratuitous at first, reeking of an Ed Sheeran superfluity engineered to generate streams and ambush the charts – but rest assured this is a refreshingly A&R-free zone.
The Godfather 3 is instead a self-released and lovingly assembled compendium rammed with a frankly ludicrous array of beats, bars and MCs representing grime’s past, present and future.
These 22 tracks introduce and educate a new crop of MCs, with Wiley eschewing features from the heavy-hitters of UK grime and rap in favour of a dizzying number of up-and-comers.
True to nature, throughout the record Wiley gives ample room for all to shine. He queues up like everyone else for his 8-bar during the cipher frenzy of ‘Eskimo Dance’ and he gives the lion’s share of London-centric tracks ‘South London’ and ‘West London’ to emerging MC generals from the respective areas like Big Zuu, Ten Dixon and Jon E Clayface.
Despite Wiley’s generosity, you can’t ignore the fact that this album excels when he is front and centre.
Over 20 years of Wiley releases still doesn’t prepare you for the frightening pace and versatility of his flow. His tempestuous bars over the imposing-beats of ‘Family’ and ‘Image Ting’ are natural forces putting Storm Ciara and Dennis to shame and his off-hand one-liners are still uproarious, whether asserting “my beats stinking like cheesy feet” or declaring “I get ‘em dirty like a baby diaper”.
However, what is more compelling than Wiley the MC, is Richard Cowie the man. As alluded to on ‘Bruce Wayne’, there is a man beneath the moniker and The Godfather 3 is most captivating during the slower and more intimate cuts; most notably ‘Free Spirit’ where Wiley comes to terms with having to wind it down at 41 lamenting “I wish life was like before / but we got to move forward”.
We have heard before that Wiley will be hanging up his gloves, but something permeating this record tells you that this time might be serious. The album’s final words, drenched in consternation, are telling: “I ain’t got a clue where my life’s going”.
Wherever Richard Cowie’s life goes, Wiley the MC is going out on top and if, despite his best efforts, Grime falls apart in his absence, then we know what Wiley himself has always intimated and this album confirms: Wiley is grime.