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The Streets

No British rapper has a bigger hurdle to overcome than the Streets' Mike Skinner. His second full-length, A Grand Don't Come for Free, comes two years after the critical and fan favorite Original Pirate Material, an album the "British Eminem" used to turn the world on its collective ear with his lisping, singular way of observing daily matters from the point of view of Everyman giving mundane issues a hilarious new twist.

Though just barely three years older since Original Pirate Material's U.K. release in early 2002, Skinner seems to have aged in dog years. His chitchats about smoking weed and playing video games have matured into stories about relationships with guy friends and girlfriends, which turn on the realization that he can rely only on himself. This story of self-discovery is told throughout A Grand; it follows a chronological pattern from beginning to end, with each song a separate chapter in the tale.

A Grand moves away from the U.K. garage beats of Original Pirate Material, connected by a borderline-disposable backing track. But the music has always been secondary; Skinner's clever and fluid lyrics are the main focus. Who can't relate to him on "Such a Twat," where he fumes, "Hello?/Fuckin' phones man!/I got crap reception in my house/I got to stand in a certain spot in my kitchen or it cuts out." -- Lily Moayeri

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