Home Read Classic Album Review: The Streets | A Grand Don’t Come For Free

Classic Album Review: The Streets | A Grand Don’t Come For Free

The U.K. rapper's album-length shaggy-dog story is one of the year's best LPs.

This came out in 2004 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Success has not spoiled Mike Skinner. The U.K. rapper and producer who records as The Streets is still the same miserable geezer he was on his lauded 2002 debut smash Original Pirate Material.

In fact, on his remarkable and transfixing followup A Grand Don’t Come For Free, life could not be worse for our Mike. This stellar 11-track concept album follows Skinner as he lurches through a frustrating day from hell; he’s late returning a rented DVD, his cell has gone dead, his TV is on the fritz, he’s breaking up with his girlfriend — and worst of all, he suspects one of his mates swiped £1,000 from his flat. Over the stumbling garage grooves and starkly ominous keyboard backdrops that are already his trademark, Skinner bemoans his fate in his clumsy conversational gait, chatting with birds and arguing with friends as he takes us from his gaff to the bar, the betting parlour, the rave club and back again — all while doling out narrative clues with the subtlety of a skilled novelist.

By the time he neatly wraps up the mystery of the missing money, Skinner’s mundane misadventures have evolved from a shaggy-dog story into a life-changing journey of growth and self-discovery. And A Grand Don’t Come for Free has firmly established itself as one of the most creative, honest and fully realized records of the year — and another smashing success for Skinner.