Mike Skinner took us for a loop with the moving, mature video for “Everything Is Borrowed,” the eponymous and introspective (“I came to this world with nothing / And I’ll leave with nothing but love”) opener from his fourth album. After all, his last record was all about being loaded. Conversely, Everything Is Borrowed follows the path set with its title track and those accompanying eviction images, a grown man dealing with the everyday. Skinner’s always rapped about the banal, and given it his own spin and poetic framing, but this is less about chasing chicks with your blokes than it is celebrating the fact that those blokes exist, making note of why you love/need them/have their backs. It’s full-on posi-core (“peaceful, positive vibes,” he’s said). The cash, fast cars, and cocaine-fueled shenanigans of The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living are exchanged for family, mortality, suicide, love, the environment, the intricacies of other folks, etc. So, is deep Skinner — “little, fleeting, momentary me” — any fun?
He is. The guy’s not a bore just because he grew up. (We all gotta grow up sometime, Kanye.) In upbeat, clapping sing-a-long “Heaven For The Weather” he lets us know he’s into “heaven for the weather / and hell for the company.” He knows you need a bit of both, makes sure he has enough of the devil tucked away in his goodwill and pep rallying. Basically, it’s philosophy in the mold of the Streets past, so it remains self-deprecating and humorous (“I learned a lot about myself drawing all morning / It was absolutely shit, I’m awful at drawing” in “I Love You More (Than You Like Me)”), not entirely dogmatic (“It’s not Earth that’s in trouble/ It’s the people that live on it” in “The Way Of The Dodo”) even when it seems like it could go that way. He raps about religion and people following “this red book” too closely in “Alleged Legends” before intimating that his own religion is self-directed moderation, doing what you think is right. With the occasional help of the old man who reminds you about what’s important, the idea of survival and lineage and talks you out of killing yourself (see “On The Edge Of A Cliff.”) Everything is very much about a flexible approach to existence, a consistent duality. In the slightly cheesy, but pretty sweet “The Strongest Person I Know” he says, “You gently take things slowly, that’s the delicate way you’ve shown me, you’re the strongest person I know.” Yeah, duh kinda. But, yeah, true kinda.
The beats? They’re catchy. They’re polished. The choruses are sometimes lame (see “The Sherry End,” for instance), but mostly Skinner manages to mix the ragtag with the polished. The two best tracks are likely the aforementioned “Everything Is Borrowed” (the opener) and the gospel-tinged “The Escapist” (the closer). But the album’s streaming across MySpace, so you feel free to weigh in, too. To our ears, it tops The Hardest Way. A Grand Don’t Come For Free has a leg-up at this point, but we’re only beginning to dig into this one, so who knows. That said, it’s hard comparing the Skinner of today with the Skinner of yesterday (from Original Pirate Material and onward). That’s a good thing. He’s definitely not resting on past laurels: Seems he’s gotten beyond them, is finding himself with a whole new set of possibilities.
Everything Is Borrowed is out 10/7 via .