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Last Updated: Friday, 11 February, 2005, 10:17 GMT
Mike Skinner: Voice of The Streets
The Streets, the music project of British rapper-songwriter Mike Skinner, helped him win Best British male at the 2005 Brit Awards.

Mike Skinner of The Streets
Skinner has topped the UK single and album charts
The Streets' A Grand Don't Come for Free, Skinner's second album, has cemented his place straddling the urban hip-hop scene on one side and idiosyncratic English singer-songwriters on the other.

He uses blunt bedroom beats as his backing, with lyrics that are more unpretentious and streetwise than rock bands dare to write.

But he does not inhabit the ruthless world of hip-hop or have the underground edge of UK Garage.

When he first broke onto the scene, he was described as the English Eminem - thanks to the fact he is white and his voice and intelligence appeal to young people across the country.

Yet he also has the quirky, distinctive and direct English songwriting style that propelled talents like Elvis Costello and Ian Dury.

Commercial success

With A Grand Don't Come for Free, Skinner has enjoyed his first major commercial success, hitting number one in May.

Perversely, his debut, Original Pirate Material, only peaked at number 10 in July 2004 - more than two years after it was released.

Of his latest singles, Dry Your Eyes gave him his first number one in July. It was inimitably The Streets - but was based on a painful break-up, slowed to a ballad and touched a nerve with the record-buying public.

Fit But You Know It, the first single from his second album, had hit number four two months earlier. Loud, lairy and light-hearted, it summed up a geezer's night out on the town.

Mike Skinner of The Streets
Skinner has been compared to Dostoevsky and Pepys
At the age of five, Skinner had apparently been "fiddling with keyboards", later building his own sound booth out of a cupboard and an old mattress and turning his bedroom into "rap central".

His early teen efforts, influenced by De La Soul and the Beastie Boys, were American-centric copies of hip-hop records.

After years of apeing American music, he returned to what he knew best, his own life, after returning from a year in Australia.

Original Pirate Material followed, recorded in his bedroom at his mother's house in Birmingham.

The Guardian compared him to Dostoevsky and Pepys, saying "the narrative is constructed round Christ's parable of the lost piece of silver".

He merely replied: "I don't read the Guardian."


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