In at the Deep End is the debut studio album of Wiley’s grime collective Roll Deep. Roll Deep has featured many members over the years, though the artists listed as personnel on this album were Wiley, Roachee, Scratchy, Trim, Manga, Breeze, Flow Dan, Jet Li, Brazen, Biggee Pitbull, Ricky Nek, Killa P, Jamakabi and Riko. With guest features by Alex Mills, Jenna G, Alex Cartana, Donae’o and production features from Danny Weed, Target and Dirty Thoughts (with Wiley handling Roll Deep’s side of the production). It’s safe to say then that there were a looooottt of people involved with the album.
The album was released by recording labels Relentless Records and Virgin Records on 6th July 2005. Artists such as Alex Mills, Jenna G, Alex Cartana and Donae’o feature across the project. Obviously bringing a more fuller, collective-orientated sound than debut albums of grime solo artists; Roll Deep’s debut album sees the group experimenting with different sounds and styles while also bringing into the limelight not only their poster boy Wiley himself, but the other talented MCs that were all around since day one of grime.
Roll Deep are early grime. A strong and respected collective within the community even if this album isn’t the best representation of them. Right off the bat - In at the Deep End is not a great album. It’s got its standout tracks; helped to market the grime sound and put the scene out there and features consistently impressive verses from Wiley. Wiley at the time was starting to be a buzz around South London and the sound of grime was fresh in people’s minds; this was still 2005. Roll Deep helped to keep that buzz alive even if it did depart from the traditional grime sound in favour of more commercially-favourable sounds. It seemed to feature enough of Wiley, but not anyone else.
Tracks such as The Avenue, When I’m ‘ere and Heat Up stand out and by that I mean I will listen to them again by choice. The others, while being cool to listen to while going through the album are not tracks I could see myself choosing over even their later material, let alone anybody else’s. The feeling with In at the Deep End is that you’re expecting loud, vibrant, multi-voiced tracks and instead it’s too slow on a lot of songs. Added to that, because the songs themselves aren’t long and are quite slow-paced, none of the MCs bar Wiley get to actually shine. The Avenue stands up thanks to the impressive verses from Breeze and Brazen; who didn’t get to flourish perhaps due to more time being favoured on Wiley. A positive point is that it puts talented artists like Donae’o and Jenna G on a platform to show their artisticity.
Overall In at the Deep End, while genuinely not being a bad project, comes off just a little hollow, misdirected and never quite outdoes itself well enough to stick out. It’s worth mentioning Roll Deep left Relentless Records following the release of this album and formed their own label; creating much more grime-sounding albums from then on.