In July 2010, British grime producer Wiley gave away 180 tracks for free online via his Twitter account. (They’re still available.) Considering that Wiley (born Richard Cowie) had already issued three full albums, at least five unofficial ones, and a whole lot of mixtape cuts, you’d think the producer/MC would be pretty much depleted for the time being.
Nope — when he told The Guardian, “I thought, let me give it away, and then move on to make the greatest music I’ve ever made,” he wasn’t joking. Twelve months on from his web purge, 100% Publishing is his most focused and gregarious album. That means its persistent focus on music-biz matters — chart position, dollars earned, the perception of himself as a one-hit wonder — vaults over self-indulgence into charm. “Numbers in Action” disses the competition (“They’re mugging me/ That’s what it sounds like/ I bought the album/ Our Price — sounds right”) and unabashedly aims for the gold: “I wanna see dollars/ I wanna see pounds/ Full circle like a merry-go-round.” He rhymes about reading the newspaper (OK, The Sun) on a song called “I Just Woke Up,” and there’s no sense that he’s throwing it away — he’s giddy, thrilled to be doing what he loves. Making music, that is, not reading the newspaper.