More favorite British music

UNBORED is jam-packed with lists of our favorite songs, books, and movies. These lists weren’t exhaustive, though — because of space constraints, we couldn’t include all of our favorites.

We’re working on a British edition of UNBORED now — it will be published in 2013 — and one of the fun things about this new project is the opportunity to swap out some of our favorite American books and movies, on the book’s various lists, for some favorite British ones.

Here’s a sneak preview of some of the music we’ll include in British edition of UNBORED


Artist: Doug E. Fresh & M.C. Ricky D
Album: “The Show” EP

The one-eyed, London-born rapper M.C. Ricky D — also known as Slick Rick — moved with his British Jamaican family to New York in 1977. Thanks to his sophisticated accent and one-of-a-kind story-telling skills, during hip hop’s so-called Golden Age he quickly rose to stardom. In this famous collaboration with Doug E. Fresh (one of the earliest pioneers of beatboxing) and a team of DJs known as the Get Fresh Crew, Rick tells a story about meeting a girl on a subway train. When she tells him that “My name is Maggie, but you can call me Michelle,” he sings her a few lines from the Beatles song “Michelle, Ma Belle” — further evidence of his English origins.


Artist: The Streets
Album: Original Pirate Material

When Mike Skinner — the British rapper and musician known for his “Mockney” accent and his Birmingham City F.C. shirts — was working on the debut album for his project The Streets, he became obsessed with the then-recent historical movie Gladiator, in which Maximus, a tough Roman general, is forced to entertain audiences as an enslaved gladiator. That’s why “Turn the Page” tells an epic tale about a modern-day rapper — Skinner himself, presumably — who imagines himself as the reincarnation of a Roman soldier. In Gladiator, Maximus is reborn after his home burns down; the narrator of this song imagines the destruction of British “garage” hip hop as it had been known before The Streets came along. And then: “A figure emerges from the wastage/Eyes transfixed with a piercing gaze/One hand clutching his sword raised to the sky.”

Fun Fact: The Observer Music Monthly listed Original Pirate Material as the best album of the ’00s.


Artist: Wiley
Album: 100% Publishing

Grime is a style of music that developed in the early 2000s (on London pirate radio stations) out of British garage hip hop, jungle, and electronica. Along with Dizzee Rascal, Wiley — an English rapper and music producer with Caribbean roots — was one of first to bring grime into the mainstream. In this defiant yet optimistic song, the Godfather of Grime, as he’s known, explains what it means to invent a brand-new style: “They tell me, ‘Kick back a little,’ ’cause I’m too raw / … I’ve got the vision I can open up a new door.”

Fun Fact: The album is titled 100% Publishing because it was written, produced, and mastered independently‚ by Wiley.