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Stars indicate the most critically-acclaimed albums.

A Grand Don't Come For Free

EMAILPRINTby The Streets

The Streets reviews
7.7 User Score:

Album Info

Label: Vice / 679

Release Date: 18 May 2004

Discs: 1 disc

Genre(s): Rap, Electronic


Mike Skinner returns with the inenviable job of following up his genre-smashing debut 'Original Pirate Material,' which was an enormous critical and commercial hit in the UK and paved the way for the success of later acts such as Dizzee Rascal.

What The Critics Said

All critic scores are converted to a 100-point scale. If a critic does not indicate a score, we assign a score based on the general impression given by the text of the review. Learn more...



An essential listen for anyone interested in where music might take them. [Jun 2004, p.86]


Alternative Press

Has as much to do with Ray Davies as it does with hip hop and garage. [Jul 2004, p.148]


The Guardian

A Grand Don't Come for Free raises the stakes to such an extent that it sounds literally unprecedented: there isn't really any other album like this.

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Q Magazine

The best album of 2004 so far, and by some distance. [Jun 2004, p.92]



With this record, Skinner is now in a class all his own; nobody else is making music like this.

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On A Grand, everything Skinner does is in service to an infinitely satisfying and resonant whole.

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Skinner has often been declared the Eminem of British rap. But on A Grand..., he proves that if anything, he's British hip-hop's answer to master storyteller Ray Davies, or maybe idiot savant Brian Wilson.

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That Skinner is able to coax so much from a cliché-heavy, 50-minute examination of solipsism and self-pity is a tribute to his ability to reflect and illuminate life's detail.

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What could be utterly pedestrian, so-what material in the hands of a lesser talent is instead imbued with cheeky mythic significance by Skinner -- blessed with an uninhibited gift for gab and a willingness to reveal all facets of his character, grotty warts included.

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New York Magazine

Skinner’s finely honed sense of place still has a nearly hypnotic effect.

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The Onion (A.V. Club)

Upping his narrative ante, Skinner goes all-in on Grand, a bold follow-up that sounds beguilingly slight and dry until details start sketching its story.

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Trouser Press

Skinner seems both edgier and more contemplative.

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All Music Guide

Confronting doubts about his seriousness and squashing whispers about his talent, Skinner has made a sophomore record that expands on what distinguishes the Streets from any other act in music.

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Dot Music

His eye remains sharp.

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Stylus Magazine

Mike Skinner’s taken a big risk in doing this, but he’s found the bizarre and beautiful meeting point of The Specials, Danny Rampling and Serge Gainsbourg. A Grand Don’t Come For Free is a remarkable record.

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New Musical Express

'A Grand Don't Come For Free' is proof that 'Original Pirate Material' wasn't a happy fluke.

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Austin Chronicle

The first hip-hop classic of the new millennium.

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Los Angeles Times

The production is as dry as old wallpaper. But as a kind of Art Brut storytelling, it is magnificent.

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Village Voice (Consumer Guide)

This makes engrossing listening if the effort suits you, but it's useless as background music.

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A Grand… isn't as immediate and vivacious as its predecessor. But credit to Skinner for pushing things forward; he remians one of the most compelling voices in British pop culture. [May 2004, p.94]


Village Voice

What hasn't gone away is Skinner's ability to put you right there, in the middle of the action, and that goes for his production as well as his lyrics.

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The exact opposite of background music, A Grand Don’t Come for Free demands the same attention as a movie, and that’s why some people will hate it while others will find it uniquely riveting.

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The beats aren't as strong here as they were on his debut, so Skinner lives and dies by his delivery. It's a clear sign of his ability that even in the album opener, when the tempo is strange and the backing track is kind of dull, you feel compelled to listen because you want to know what he's saying.

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E! Online

Okay, so it's not the most revolutionary concept album, but the raw energy and mad buzz make it one that's easy to get hooked on.

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Entertainment Weekly

Isn't likely to convert, say, your average Jay-Z fan.... Yet it works, and even seems refreshingly exotic. [21 May 2004, p.77]


Rolling Stone

Is both simpler--in sound and scope--than Pirate and much more ambitious. [27 May 2004, p.80]


Even the grand indulgence in artistic artifice on A Grand Don't Come For Free -- its self-contained narrative -- seems like it's forsaking a long shelf-life, the downside of the story's "mystery" being that, once you've heard the yarn once, it's a little like you've heard it all, and all it has to offer.

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11 frenetic, oddball, and extremely original tracks. [Jun 2004, p.154]


The New York Times

The problem with "A Grand Don't Come for Free" is that the pieces often work better as stories than as songs.... But it is still a thrill to hear Mr. Skinner toy with the form that he invented.

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Most of the hooks are appalling - a few, sung by Skinner, like 'Such A Twat', and opener 'It Was Supposed To Be So Easy' are enjoyable, but when he lets his mates croon soupily all over his beats, shit gets distinctly unpleasant.

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What Our Users Said

The average user rating for this album is 7.7 (out of 10) based on 167 User Votes

Note: User votes are NOT included in the Metascore calculation.

Eli T gave it a9:
Incredible record. When I first listened to it, years ago, I was vaguely impressed, but not engaged. After a few listens some songs started sticking out, I began caring about the narrative more and more. Songs I hated became incredible, all leading up to one of the best closing songs of all time, Empty Cans. If you don't care for it now, give it a listen every 3 or 4 months, you may come around to love it.

Matt S gave it a9:
One of my favorite albums of all time. When I first got this album I didn't really understand it. Then the song 'Empty Can's came up randomly on my shuffle on my MP3 player about six months later. I was absolutely blown away by the lyrics and immediately played the entire album from start to finish the way it was met to be. A fun and moving album that really relates to pretty much any of us who fell in love at an early age, made a ton of mistakes, and eventually needed to pick themselves back up again.

Daniel D. gave it a3:
I'm pretty sure I could also make an album that sounded "like nothing else..." unfortunately it would be total garbage, just like this one. Call it lost in translation, say Americans just don't get it, whatever you want....this is annoying to the ear right off the bat, and it doesn't change the 2nd time around, either.

Alan K. gave it a0:
Excruciating. It may be supposed to be a parody of Eminem - it sounds a lot like Jilted John, which was definitely a parody of punk - and if so it's grimly hilarious. Otherwise...

A P. gave it a9:
Really cool album! People who say that they don't get it just don't listen to the words or even the music. The story is really cool and the beats are backing vocals are great. (Try out Dizzee Rascal's Boy In Da Corner if you like this) It may at first be a little hard to get used to (being American, it's hard to at first get past the accent) but it's ultimately rewarding!

pADDY A gave it a9:
Got this for €4.99. Loved Original Pirate Material when I bought it a few years back and didnt think that much of 'The Hardest Way...' This album is fantastic. I find it hard to define, but Mike is original, engagin, weaves subtle beautiful and simple melodies behind mundane, often humorous and astute observational lyrics. The best bargain album I have ever bought.

Alex P gave it a9:
Americans don't get this record. LOL at Americans.

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