Allegations of anti-Semitism mark a dark turn in the career of grime artist Wiley and his rollercoaster ride to fame.
The 41-year-old musician, whose real name is Richard Cowie, has been dropped by his management company and is facing calls from campaigners to be investigated by police following a series of social media posts dismissed as ‘anti-Semitic hatred’.
It’s only been two and a half years since the rapper and producer have been congratulated by stars and prominent figures from the world of urban music in the UK after completing an MBE.
Wiley said receiving the gong for services to music in 2018 was like “ the grade I wanted and didn’t get, ” adding that he was “ finally there. ”
But his rise to royal recognition and being called the “Godfather of Grime” was a plaid, which included heroin trafficking, was stabbed at least three times, and a recent high profile online feud.
Last month, Wiley suggested that he and fellow musician Stormzy put their words and lyrics war to bed after the pair committed a series of personal attacks on Twitter and in their music against each other.
Wiley reportedly said he thought Stormzy had marketed the grime genre he pioneered about 20 years ago, in part by partnering with pop artists such as Ed Sheeran.
In one issue, Wiley had threatened to attack Stormzy’s mother when the feud escalated between the two British rappers.
Born in Bow, East London, on January 19, 1979, Wiley was exposed to music from his cot when his father’s band used the bedroom as a rehearsal space.
He soon used empty cardboard boxes as drums before getting his first real six-year kit.
A somewhat troubled childhood followed, and Wiley spent some time in Kent, living with his mother and grandmother before returning to London with his father, where he started selling drugs.
But he traded drugs for music after receiving threats from a rival dealer and started combining rapping with the prominent garage music scene of the ’90s and with Drum and Bass. This innovation resulted in some of the very first grime beats, such as Eskimo.
He found success through garage collective Pay As U Go before forming the Roll Deep entourage, which included future stars Dizzee Rascal and Tinchy Stryder. They walked away from the garage noise and polluted.
Wiley’s debut album Treddin On Thin Ice came out in 2004 and was followed by several more studio albums while still retaining its grime sound. He also enjoyed a number one hit with Heatwave.
Three days before the video for the 2008 song Wearing My Rolex was to be filmed, Wiley was stabbed and left a visible scar on his face.
By that time, he had also dropped out with Dizzee Rascal, real name Dylan Mills, who was stabbed in Ayia Napa in 2003.
Full details of the incident were never fully revealed, but in his 2017 autobiography Eskiboy, Wiley wrote a letter to his former friend, who was 19 at the time.
He wrote: “Whenever I think about that whole situation, I can’t believe what happened. I can’t believe this is still the reason we don’t talk today. ‘
In the autobiography, Wiley also had himself described as ‘four different people’ and documented the numerous threats to his life.
He was not only Wiley, the ‘meanest grime MC’, he wrote, but also Richard ‘the boy who followed in his father’s footsteps and climbed out of his crib to bang the drums’.
There is also Kylea – a nickname his mother gave when he was young. “The lost child, the wild child who had to learn to become a father.”
Plus, he adds that he’s Eskiboy, referring to the name he often uses to describe his music – eskibeat.
“The boy who likes to help people but has a cold heart,” he wrote.
In 2013, Wiley enraged Glastonbury organizers, Michael and Emily Eavis, after tweeting “F *** them and their farm” after a particularly rainy year at the festival.