By Rosie Duffield
April 25, 2013
In any autobiography, you expect a bit of family background, some interesting tales – perhaps an adventure or two – and if you’re really lucky a degree of scandal. This is particularly true of celebrity autobiographies. It’s quite refreshing, then, to get an insight into Mike Skinner, the man behind The Streets. The Story of The Streets does of course include some of this, but is told with such honesty and nonchalance that some of Skinner’s revelations are a bit of a shock. Though Skinner starts with a section about his beginnings, the book is set out rather unconventionally – documenting the making of his five albums rather than a straightforward chronology of his life.
As such, it’s an interesting insight into how a young man from suburban Birmingham came to fuse rap, garage and dance music together; how he spent all the money he earned from his part-time job at Burger King on equipment, and spent every waking moment (bar time spent at college or work) holed up in his bedroom producing music for himself and local rappers.
There are some fascinating moments of candour; the incessant drug taking every weekend, an ill-informed spot of gambling, a spontaneous trip to Australia in pursuit of a girl – which started out as a short holiday and ended up as a year-long adventure – and a hardened account of an epileptic fit Skinner endured on the flight on the way there. That trip turned out to be pivotal to Skinner’s success – it focused his mind and made him realise he could survive outside of Birmingham; finally enabling him to make the leap and move to London upon his return to the UK. After moving, he sent off a number of demos and The Streets, as we know it, was born.
One of the most enjoyable things about the book is the way it’s written. It reads unmistakably as Skinner would speak, and is a brilliant narrative that at times comes across as a train of thought – one moment talking about one thing before shooting off on a tangent, all of which seems rather jumbled – except it isn’t, it’s all brought back together rather succinctly, point made.
If anything, the book is an excellent example of how the music industry works. As you read, you see the story of The Streets unfold; from Skinner’s early unfulfilled record company meetings pre-Australia, to getting his break with a management company, and his OCD-like insistence that he write, compose and oversee everything to do with his music. It’s incredibly inspirational for anyone wanting to get into the industry and is a beacon for performers who want that bit of independence while maintaining a prominent role in the music scene.
At points Mike Skinner’s ramblings are a little hard to follow, but if you persevere you’ll be rewarded. The Story of The Streets is an authentic, intelligent and, at times, amusing account of how one man spoke in his own voice and changed the landscape of British music forever.