Wot U Call ESKI?
Have you ever suddenly had a hand gripping at your throat while DJing out in a club? A death threat in your ear? All that for playing out a specific record?
The record in question was Igloo by Wiley, the instrumental version of Wiley’s 2004 hit “Wot do u call it?”. Igloo can be seen as the quintessential Wiley track and brings “eski” music to the point. Eski is the music genre Wiley single-handedly invented with tracks like “Eskimo” (hence “eski”), “Ice Rink“, “Colder” or “Morgue“.Wiley - Igloo (Instrumental)
These tracks come with a very specific, minimalistic sound palette, an assortment of clicks and noises, a set of square-wave basslines and highly compressed drum samples. The melodic motives are simple, as is the sparse arrangement. The production technique is not very much refined, but brought to the point.Wiley - Ice Rink (Instrumental) Wiley - Colder (Devils Mix)
These tracks are meant to be spit over by MCs on pirate radios and served as a stepping stone for UK’s emerging grime scene at the beginning of the noughties. Wiley excelled both in production and MCing. Grime’s often vicious MC battles brought him deserved fame.
Lethal Bizzle vs. Wiley
Most of Wiley’s early grime works were released on white label 12″ and are today highly sought after rarities. Many of the records would have the full instrumental on the A-side. The B-side would then have the so-called Devils or Bass mix of the same track with only the bassline. Track names initially often rotated about everything winter related (“Avalanche”, “Blizzard”, “Freeze”, “Frost Bite” etc.) and “described the mood I was in back then” (Wiley). As grime music got widely popular and Wiley the “King of Grime”, he lost this habit. It were, however, these early releases that would found his fame, define eski music and make him die-hard fans all-over the world.
Eski music has since gained it’s own life. Producers like Slackk, Walton, Logos are emulating the classic Wiley sound today and develop it further.Logos - Kowloon Slackk - Eski Clicks
The big hype about grime had lost its momentum after a few years. While his former Roll Deep crew member Dizzee Rascal had firmly established himself as an artist, Wiley has since been chasing fame and releasing more and more chart-oriented club tracks (“Wearing my Rolex”) with the declared goal to land a top hit. In 2010 he broke ties with his manager and the record label and put out download links to 11(!) finished, but unreleased albums via this twitter account (called the “Zip Files”). Creating a buzz was obviously the aim here. Occasionally a mixtape would appear with biting MCing and Wiley in old form (“It’s all fun and games till Vol.1”).Wiley - I'm On One Wiley - Crystal Clear
Oh, you wondered what happened at that party where I dared to play Igloo? Another DJ had obviously stacked grime as his claim in that particular city. Intruders faced the consequences. I avoided punishment, made myself elusive and emigrated to a faraway country.