Wiley, Evolve or Be Extinct

Michaelangelo Matos

By Michaelangelo Matos

on 01.23.12 in Reviews

Even for a guy who records constantly, out of habit, like Prince or Guided by Voices or the early, three-album-a-year Beach Boys, Wiley is prone to throwing things together. “This Is Just an Album” is the title of Evolve or Be Extinct‘s final track, as if to shrug out loud, “It’s the body of work that counts.” That, and Wiley was in such a hurry to get the thing out in time for his 33rd birthday (happy birthday, Wiley) that the listener’s likely to prune some of it. Such as, what the hell is “I’m a weirdo/ But I’m not a bipolar…They ain’t on the same planet as me” supposed to imply? And did we need the four-minute “Customs (Skit)” to introduce the three-minute “Immigration”?

Entertaining observations with precise, hypnotic diction

Hardly: “Immigration” is one of Wiley’s best, a jet-setting take on “Illegal Search” or “99 Problems,” as he complains about overzealous customs officials: “I’m in your country ’cause I like it, don’t you get it?/ You think I came to pick up stuff and go back home and sell it.” He’s so utterly English at times it can seem alien to Yank ears – the clipped robotic refrain of “Skanking” seems like a joke before it turns earworm. The ultra-simple production can seem chintzy (the Miami Vice-lite keyboard hook and bare drum machine of “Immigration,” the TB-606-dominated beat-scapes of “Link Up” and “Skanking”), but Wiley’s able to come up with entertaining observations in the midst of just about any topic or tangents, and his precise diction is hypnotic in itself.