"What's Ramones?" Mike Skinner, the one-man act of The Streets, asks from his cell phone, en route to Utah. "I think a lot of people made those comparisons to me," Skinner explains, "I'm talking about my life on every track."

Skinner's unique brand of music is urban hip-hop delivered in a cockney accent. He's not rapping like Eminem, though comparisons have been made. Both are white rappers -- the similarities end there. He's got a similar accent to punksters like The Clash and The Ramones, but his story is different.

Since his first release in 2002, Original Pirate Material, The Streets have had success in both America and Britain. Skinner doesn't tailor his music to the U.S. and he feels that the British understand his sentiments more. Americans may be able to pick up on his words better, though, on his new album, A Grand Don't Come for Free. Skinner explains, "It's slow and there's more words to it."

Though it's often difficult for him to articulate his thoughts over the phone, his ideas on album are salient. His style and tone fits him well.

Two years have passed since Original Pirate Material was released. Skinner feels he's grown on A Grand Don't Come For Free: "I think my attitude has matured on the new album," he says. "I think my ideas are more focused and more planned out."

Past his own efforts, Skinner is looking to help out a group of kids from his old neighborhood. "I'm working on starting up a record label called The Beats," he mentions. "For a band called The Mitchell Brothers."

Now that Skinner isn't busy living life in British projects, he's got time to relax. When he's not touring, that is. He follows European football. He just saw Starsky and Hutch. In general he likes films with twists or ones that are at least interesting. But he's mostly out on the road, rapping, or in the studio mixing up beats that accurately depict the lives of lager junkies, idiots and hardworkers.

Listening to his songs, it's pretty obvious that there's something a little peculiar going on in his skull. His wordplay, beat-mixing and originality make the British rapper something special. To all this, Skinner's response is simple: "I think I'm creative"


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