It sounds like a very bad idea: a 22-year-old white Brummie called Mike rapping over his own homemade garage under the nom de plume of The Streets. The 2 Step Brian Harvey, has it really come to this?
But ‘Has It Come To This?’ is not only the most original, lyrical British rap in memory, it also (alongside So Solid Crew) charts an evolutionary route for UK garage. ‘Has It Come To This?’ is the first garage record to be made about those who buy the records, rather than about those who make them.
It is not about being bling bling or VIP in Napa. It is about getting stoned playing Playstation, about scoring drugs, about being menaced in kebab shops, about hanging round on corners looking for better, about new trainers and breaking windows, about “sex, drugs and on the dole”. It is truly, as Mike Skinner intones repeatedly over the gush of dizzy garage, “original pirate material”. A major talent has arrived.
That was the NME review of the debut single by The Streets.
SWC also wrote about the track when he included it in an ICA:-
“The song that gave you the idea that The Streets were probably going to be incredible. To take a track like this and stick firmly in the Top 20 was quite something. It came at a time when Garage was becoming big in the UK – and this has that garage echo to it, but ultimately it sounds nothing like garage was supposed to – I mean this was good. I love the way Skinner sounds isolated in it. It is a splendid record.”
SWC’s take on things resonated with me. I didn’t ‘get’ garage, not at the time nor all these years later am I any closer to declaring a love for it. There are some songs from its golden decade, which began in the late 90s, that’ll come on a radio station when I’m out and about and I’ll find myself humming along. But it doesn’t move me to dance nor do I have any vinyl or CDs associated with the genre sitting in the collection. And yet, I always enjoy listening to The Streets – well at least the first two albums as that’s all I have!
Has It Come To This jumped all over the charts on the week of its official release, going in at #18 on 20 October 2001. It then demonstrated all sorts of erratic behaviour, dropping out of the Top 100 after just four weeks, only to re-enter and go back up in due course to #55 in early December before dropping out again but coming back in for a third time and reach #80 in January 2002. All told, it spent nine weeks in the charts over a 13-week period.
It’s another one of those songs that makes me ask myself where the years have gone. It certainly doesn’t feel as if it was almost two decades ago and they are an act I still find myself classifying as being new and fresh. Writing these posts frightens me sometimes.