It's too easy to call Mike Skinner, a.k.a. the Streets, the British Eminem, given that both are working-class, hip-hop-bred blokes with a boy-next-door face and an electrifying delivery. But where Em spews venom to settle personal scores, the 22-year-old Skinner is too busy chronicling the youth culture of Blair's Britain. Skinner's songs are peppered with visceral day-in-the-life details chronicling beer and drug consumption, video game addictions, pub brawls, iffy relationships, and life on the dole -- minus the potty mouth that makes Eminem so abrasive to women, gays, and generally sensible folks. It's a bland council-flat existence where music represents escape and salvation. Skinner's lyrical flow may borrow from Yankee rappers, but his Birmingham-by-way-of-South London accent, his deadpan verbosity, and his 2-step garage beats are distinctly British. Americans had a taste of the garage style on Craig David's soul hit Born to Do It, but Skinner's homemade beats are raw as sushi and potent as wasabi. His songs are theatrical, but there's little role-playing -- outside of the hilarious "The Irony of It All," a sparring match between a lager-fueled Joe and a pothead college student, both played by Skinner. More representative is the mock soul "Has It Come to This?," in which he builds tension by pitting an easy-on-the-ears music bed -- a soul sample, a slinky keyboard, electronic beats -- against his drug-addled but eerily lucid flow, a breathless tale that reports, almost journalistically, on a geezer's typical day. Equally jarring and compelling is "Let's Push Things Forward," a horn-sprinkled tune that evokes the Specials' politically charged ska hit "Ghost Town" with lyrics that turn on a dime from biting to wasted: "This ain't your typical garage joint/I make points which hold significance/That ain't a bag, it's a shipment/This ain't a track, it's a movement...I make bangers, not anthems/Leave that to the Artful Dodger." He's part underground CNN, part amped-up knob-twiddler, and Mike Skinner's debut -- already nominated for Britain's Mercury Prize -- is a dance music event: smart, compelling, yes, banging -- and not to be missed.