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The Streets

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The Streets is the vehicle for the diverse creative talents of Mike Skinner, a 27-year-old rapper, songwriter, storyteller and poet whose wry tales of provincial suburban life have captured the zeitgeist of British life at the beginning of the 21st century.

Skinner may have moved to South London -- and adopted a mockney-accent to match -- but his songs are grounded in a Birmingham upbringing he describes as "suburban estates, not poor but not much money about, really boring."

Mixing and matching elements of hip hop, garage and ska, Skinner is the latest in a long tradition of English pop lyricists who have grounded their work in everyday ennui, such as Ray Davies, the Specials and Ian Dury. His world is one of drinking, kebab shops and dodgy geezers, Playstations, petty violence and casual crime.

The Streets's first album "Original Pirate Material" came out in 2001 on the back of the groundbreaking singles "Has It Come To This?" and the anti-pop manifesto "Let's Push Things Forward."

But it was 2004's "A Grand Don't Come For Free" -- an ambitious concept album about the life of "an archetypal unemployed urban youth" -- that propelled Skinner from the margins of popular culture into the mainstream with hits such as "Fit But You Know It," an ode to pop babe Rachel Stevens, and the anthemic "Dry Your Eyes."

Elevation to A-list status could have posed problems for an artist celebrated for honest social realism, but Skinner holds his nerve on his third album "The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living" by continuing to sing about what he knows: the pressures of fame and, on the first single, "When You Wasn't Famous," pop stars indulging in hard drugs ahead of appearing on children's television.

"As difficult as it was, I knew the most entertaining thing I could do was to tell the truth," he says. "Compared to the reality, any fiction I could come up with would seem very mundane: I'd never dare invent anything that crazy, because I wouldn't think anyone would believe it."

Skinner also runs his own record label "The Beats," which features artists including The Mitchell Brothers and Professor Green.



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