Power Corrupts Absolutely
In the same way few people seemed to care about the National Hockey League’s recent lockout — an instance of millionaires quibbling over millions — The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living engenders no sympathy or interest for The Streets. Far from Kurt Cobain flipping off frat-boy bandwagon-jumpers or Eminem bewildered by his rise from the ghetto, the third release arranged by British hip-hop innovator Mike Skinner is a humourless-with-two-U’s account of some of the hazards of his fame.Where The Streets once told tales of workaday British life and leisure, The Hardest Way comes across as little more than a cockeyed Anglo episode of Entourage. Skinner seems burned or obsessed by celebrity romance gossip, so his lyrical focus turns to lamenting fans’ camera phones (“When You Wasn’t Famous”), how far a quarter-mil gets you in the biz (the title track), and fake Streets hats (“Fake Streets Hats”). Even the most middle-class of these songs, the fraud-friendly “Can’t Con an Honest Jon,” sounds like a voiceover from some imagined sequel to Trainspotting.
The music is also as far from its origins as Skinner is from his. His foundation genres of grime and two-step imply a certain sense of sonic excitement or tension. With the exception of the backing tracks for “Honest Jon” and “Hotel Expressionism” that drama is wholly absent. The Streets suddenly sound like one of many U.S. rap acts who use minimal and anonymous production to make their testosterone stand out. A downer without intelligent thought and a complaint nobody would want to take the time to translate from Cockney, The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living makes one wonder what anyone saw in The Streets other than oncoming traffic.