British rapper and producer Mike Skinner came of age in the early 2000s under the moniker The Streets, blending R&B, house music, drum and bass, and hip-hop into something both unique and ferociously popular (and in doing so, he laid a few of the foundation stones of what would become grime). His lyrical superpower was being able to articulate male vulnerability in a way that connected to a post-millennium audience bottle-fed by the bravado and swagger of American hip-hop and the druggy, corporate club culture that Acid House had metastasized into. His was a hyper-intelligent voice; euphoric, critical, scattered, self-aware, fucked-up, giddy on fame and fortune, and the fear of it all falling apart. Which it sort of did in 2011, when he crashed the whole endeavor into a wall in a bid to grab back what pieces of him were still his—the pieces that hadn’t been sold as songs, spun out as lurid tabloid tales, or snorted up through rolled up bank notes in the backseat.
Skinner’s story – like many others – was something of a Greek myth parable—the more fame he got, the more it took from him. The following years have seen him piece it back together. Settling down, having a couple of kids, making music with friends, setting up an independent record label called The Beats, and frequently mentoring young musicians like Oscar #Worldpeace, who he hit up on Twitter after hearing his track on a radio show. Following the May release of his much-hyped debut album, Sporadic, #Worldpeace is featured on Skinner’s don’t-call-it-a-comeback album None of Us Are Getting Out of Here Alive, out next month. Their song is one of 12 tracks, each a collaboration between Skinner and a bunch of predominantly young artists. We join Skinner and #Worldpeace mid-lockdown talking onomatopoeia, slippery slopes, elbows, fly kicks, white Coco Pops, salt and vinegar peanuts, Call of Duty, and Ricky Hatton. —RICHARD TURLEY
OSCAR WORLDPEACE: Hey! Can you see me now?
MIKE SKINNER: I can hear, but I can’t see. Wait, here we go!
WORLDPEACE: Okay, sick!
SKINNER: This really reminds me of our legendary, now lost conversation, that we had before. [Ed. note: This was the second conversation between Skinner and Worldpeace, due to technical difficulties.]
WORLDPEACE: I can’t even remember.
SKINNER: I feel like the lost conversation with you and me is gonna go down in history, like that Jimi Hendrix performance when Martin Luther King got shot. It was the greatest guitar solo ever. All that pain and the struggle. And it was lost!
WORLDPEACE: I’ve got a bit of the recording, if we’ve got anyone who can map lips. They’ll be able to transcribe that for us and piece it together.
SKINNER: That can go on the Netflix special. Or the BBC 4 documentary.
WORLDPEACE: I think we spoke about when you were working at Burger King. There was definitely a bit of McDonald’s talk. Maybe we can revisit that? I had McDonald’s yesterday, Mike.
SKINNER: What was the queue like? Because I saw a queue on the news, and it was just like “what the hell?!” You know those films where it’s just a massive apocalypse, and the whole city is just exploded and there’s a big queue of cars all leaving?
WORLDPEACE: I saw that footage as well! But luckily, I wasn’t in that queue. It’s that McDelivery. McDelivery came through. It was warm. Shout out Uber Eats, man. It was delicious.
SKINNER: This seems like a different era now, but I used to give every single Uber driver 5 stars. Straight up, no matter what. 5 stars. Not a hater. You would have to literally be smoking crack in the driver’s seat, veering off the road, on the phone, and then I might give you 4 stars.
WORLDPEACE: I give 4 stars to the chatterboxes. I don’t like too much talking in Ubers. If you talk to me too much, it’s 4 star bruv. Anything else, as you said, 5 stars. Naturally.
SKINNER: What we didn’t talk about was your album, mate. I guess we should start professionally, and I’ll just say, huge congratulations on the record. I love your album. It is absolutely sick.
WORLDPEACE: I don’t want to talk about my album too much. I wanna talk about your album!
SKINNER: Yeah, I used to hate that too. I still do sort of hate talking about my own music.
WORLDPEACE: I like to have a conversation like a normal person and trust that the music sells itself. It doesn’t have to be talked about so much.
SKINNER: It does, I’m afraid, but it’s a really sick album. Thanks for naming a brilliant single ‘Mmm.’ Because when you’re telling people, “Ahh that new Oscar #Worldpeace tune is so good!” and they’re like, “What’s it called?” and you go “Hmm”… How do you say it?
WORLDPEACE: [Laughs] Yeah, it’’s “Mmm” and “Ooo.” I like the onomatopoeia. I might just make all my tracks on the next one onomatopoeia. I think it’s a sick way to do it.
SKINNER: It’s wicked. Would you say, like, ‘brick’ is onomatopoeia?
SKINNER: Because it sounds like a brick, right?
WORLDPEACE: But that’s like saying ‘rock’ is onomatopoeia? Because we know what it is anyway, so it sort of sounds like it but it doesn’t actually make a sound.
SKINNER: I think it’s just a slippery slope, you know?
SKINNER: Before long, you’re just saying anything’s onomatopoeia. Have you ever put into Google translate, like, ‘meow’? Or ‘woof’? It’s mad! If you put in animal noises and translate them into like, Spanish or Japanese, they always have a completely different word, but it still somehow sounds exactly like what it is and you’re like “rah, that is it!” Put in “meow” into Google Translate now, and it’s an education.
WORLDPEACE: Wow. I’ll defo give it a go. Actually, that’s what I mostly do anyway. If I see something on social media, like if someone says my name in Japanese and writes whatever next to it, I might Google Translate that. I was obsessed with myself online a bit when I was younger. I think I’ve managed to slow down on that.
SKINNER: Nowadays on Instagram, you can just press translate. When you’re on, like, Rosalía’s Instagram, you can just be like, “Alright, translate.”
WORLDPEACE: Rosalía? Who’s that?
SKINNER: Ahhh, Rosalía, man. She’s amazing. She’s a Spanish singer who’s doing loads of great stuff. “Con Altura” was my favorite tune of last year. Stick it on straight after this!
WORLDPEACE: I’m defo gonna do that. I’ve seen her around, but I haven’t listened to Rosalía’s stuff. I’ve got a lot of time to take it in, in my quarantine evenings.
SKINNER: We could talk about this for hours. We’ll save it for the next Tonga bus. I’ll sit you down and be like, okay let’s chat.
WORLDPEACE: I miss Tonga though.
SKINNER: Bro, I miss Tonga every day.
WORLDPEACE: TeeF DM’d me the other day and it just brought back so many elbows and fly kicks. Memories that he gave everyone. As soon as he hit my DMs, it came straight back.
WORLDPEACE: I was really lucky to even be there, so I count my blessings for that.
SKINNER: What are you talking about, man?
WORLDPEACE: I just feel like [Murkage] Dave, Daryl, you were doing all the heavy lifting, the hard work, and there was me and TeeF that were just jumping up and down having fun. I think I had the most fun out of everyone.
SKINNER: Bro! No, no, no, I totally disagree with you on that. You’re a wicked MC. You really should have been doing your own performance. We were definitely the lucky ones to have you just, like, with the greatness you brought.
WORLDPEACE: This is the romantic Mike that we all like.
SKINNER: Well yeah, of course. That’s how we met, isn’t it? We met on the internet. Maybe people don’t know this?
WORLDPEACE: Mike DM’d me on Twitter. He slid into my DMs.
SKINNER: That’s right. I think it was MistaJam played one of your tracks. I was listening to the radio and that’s where I became aware of you. Then I found you and just DM’d you straight away.
WORLDPEACE: Slid straight in. I honestly didn’t believe it at first. And now we’re here making music and talking about Tonga and old times.
SKINNER: Wild. I just remember smoking a lot of cigarettes then. A lot.
WORLDPEACE: I definitely was second-hand smoking a ton of cigarettes as well. I was drinking a bit on that tour, too.
SKINNER: Yeah, a lot of drinking as well. It all feels so long ago now. It felt like a sort of in-between something, like it was just a mad portal into something.
WORLDPEACE: To get to now!
SKINNER: I don’t even mean in a career way—I mean in more of a life kind of way. By the way, I wanted to say as well that our song together on the new mixtape is one of the best songs on the album. We actually had to be in the same room, I remember hanging out all the time. I had that place on the boat when you came onboard.
WORLDPEACE: That was insane. I don’t know if you noticed, Mike, but both our tracks are track 8. You’re on track 8 on mine and I’m on track 8 on yours. It was obviously meant to be, man.
SKINNER: You’ve been watching David Icke again, haven’t you?
WORLDPEACE: I haven’t. I just think it means the bromance is real.
SKINNER: I love you, man!
WORLDPEACE: I love you too, bro.
SKINNER: I miss you! You need to come over after lockdown. We’ll kick it.
WORLDPEACE: How’s your exercising been in this quarantine period?
SKINNER: Terrible! I’m so out of it at the moment.
WORLDPEACE: I’m asking because you’re looking really well, man. You’re looking like the Mike that started touring again.
SKINNER: Well, sexy for the tour—you know me! I thought I would have gone full Ricky Hatton and just put on, like, ten stone. I literally haven’t done anything. I’m currently the unhealthiest I think I’ve ever been. My saving grace is that I’ve been working so hard on this video that we’re doing and all the stuff that goes with releasing a new album. I’ve been working so hard that I think I just don’t eat. You know how normally you’re like, let’s see what’s in the fridge. I’m just so busy, so I think weirdly that’s the thing that’s meant I’ve not managed to put on 10 stone.
WORLDPEACE: So, what would be your go-to snack then? You must be eating something, right?
SKINNER: Thank you for asking me this, because I wanted to talk about this with someone. The first is salt and vinegar peanuts. Have you ever had them?
SKINNER: KP. They’re rare. Go into your local shop and say to the bossman, “KP nuts, salt and vinegar,” and he’ll be like “I don’t think they exist.” No, they do exist, but they’re rare! He’s probably going to have to talk to his supplier. Number two is white chocolate Coco Pops. You think they’re going to be mad sweet, but nah, they’re actually more subtle than you think.
WORLDPEACE: Anything white chocolate is amazing. Even a Twix is better than the original.
SKINNER: I’ve never known so much about snacks in my entire life. I never really ate this stuff before. My number three snack—you know Baz who does our live drums? Well, he makes a hot sauce called Baz’s Hot Sauce. It’s really hot and it’s kind of sweet. I think he puts a can of Coke or something in every batch.
WORLDPEACE: You’re a bit of a chili guy as well, aren’t you? I’m a bit of a chili guy, but I don’t like it overpowering. It ruins the food.
SKINNER: I actually can’t get it to be overpowering. I literally can’t put enough on.
WORLDPEACE: You need to do that wing challenge on YouTube—Hot Ones.
SKINNER: I feel like I would just be so good though that they wouldn’t even put it up. “Not worth it.” You know when someone is just too good it’s actually not fun anymore?
WORLDPEACE: I do, yeah. My favorite episode is actually Halle Berry. She bossed it. It was almost not an episode, she literally ran through them wings. If anyone is reading this and hasn’t seen it, watch the Halle Berry Hot Ones episode. She ruins wings. I don’t think I need to sell her wing-eating, but you should check it out.
SKINNER: So, are you saying I’m like the Halle Berry of Geezer Garage?
WORLDPEACE: I like the way that sounds, actually.
SKINNER: Obviously, everyone has their favorite quarantine snacks, like Pickled Onion Monster Munch, Daim Bars.
WORLDPEACE: The classics. And Diet Coke.
SKINNER: Of course, Diet Coke. That’s what stops you going full Ricky Hatton.
WORLDPEACE: Shout out Ricky Hatton, by the way. He was my favorite boxer when I was growing up.
SKINNER: Did you watch the MMA fight?
WORLDPEACE: I don’t watch MMA. MMA is too far for me, man. I think that’s the level I don’t know that I ever want to get to. I don’t like to see things like that. Are you into it?
SKINNER: No. To be honest, I’m just into music. I’m really boring. I’m into music and white chocolate Coco Pops.
WORLDPEACE: Someone told me you like a bit of Call of Duty?
SKINNER: I haven’t played Call of Duty in a while. I haven’t played any games for quite a while. I got to the point where it’s just a bit of a waste of time. If I was playing computer games now online, in lockdown, I would not be doing anything else. I feel like being busy is the way to keep yourself together, if you feel like you’re actually doing something.
WORLDPEACE: Yeah, I get you. I’ve packed in the video games now, as well. Maybe until PS5 come out. I’ll be jumping on that PS5 wave. Hopefully they read this and send some FIFA and patterned PS5s our way.
SKINNER: I’m looking forward to this conversation dropping. We’re gonna get free Playstations.
WORLDPEACE: And Ricky Hatton is gonna punch us out.