In 2004, Skepta united 10 North London MCs (including his younger brother and Boy Better Know collective co-founder Jme) for his debut single, “Private Caller,” orchestrating one of grime’s all-time crew anthems. The track offered a glimpse at the DJ-turned-MC’s destiny: a fearless director and lightning rod for grime’s frenzied, communal energy. Earning plaudits in his early days as a producer for Meridian Crew, Skepta used charged-up electro synths, disordered sample slices, and sharp bass knocks in his revolutionary approach—and became synonymous with grime's early period of proliferating instrumental “riddims” to be vocaled over. Drawing influence from the cultural melting pot of '90s council estates, the mic mastery of Jamaican soundsystem deejays and his own Nigerian heritage, the Tottenham native (born Joseph Junior Adenuga) showcased his immense promise with 2007’s debut album Greatest Hits—another moment of bold foreshadowing. Challenges for grime's throne have introduced conflict throughout Skepta's career, perhaps most notably his bouts with onetime BBK member Wiley, which would serve as a promotional boost for Skepta's second LP, 2009’s Microphone Champion. A mixed run of form would follow before he shifted back towards grime's early DIY energy with 2014’s “That’s Not Me”—and helped spark grime’s imperial phase. 2016’s Konnichiwa—with its anarchic spirit and bold anti-austerity messaging—became perhaps his landmark body of work and underlined his status as both a key custodian of the culture and a central figure to grime’s global standing.
BORNSeptember 19, 1982