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The Streets - The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living

Released on Vice Records, 4/25/2006

Ah, the pitfalls of stardom. They’ve inspired countless hours of celebrity navel-gazing, as spotlight-weary singers spin tragic tales of overflowing bank accounts, sexed-up groupies and designer drugs. Now it’s Mike Skinner’s turn.

Ironic, you say? Not really. While superstardom here in the States has proved elusive, the quick-witted British MC has sold more than 3 million records abroad, lending credibility to his brazen claims to fame. Here, he abandons his goofy “street” persona and serves up autobiographical sketches of the Good Life, complete with easy shags and mountains of coke. But even the Good Life comes with its share of headaches -- among them, camera phones. “How the hell am I supposed to do a line in front of complete strangers when I know they’ve all got cameras,” Skinner laments on “When You Wasn’t Famous,” his tongue-in-cheek tribute to A-List bed buddies. Clearly, the road to hip-hop celebrity is a bumpy one.

Luckily, The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living finds Skinner’s sense of humor firmly intact, and his colorful flow has rarely sounded so smooth. If anything, his third Streets album represents a giant leap forward, as his blaring beats and sing-song choruses have never seemed so immediately memorable. Like the Beastie Boys, who evolved from brash pranksters into versatile hit-makers, Skinner can no longer be dismissed as an amusing novelty act. Armed with powerful hooks that do justice to his clever wordplay, he has arrived as a genuine hip-hop force -- and perhaps had a bit too much fun in the process.

Rating 3.5 out of 5 stars