2015 has been a big year for one of Hip-Hop’s most recognized derivatives, Grime.
A fluctuation of artists has put the scene firmly within the British mainstream, highlighted by the 27 nominations across all categories for the region’s highly prestigious MOBO Awards last month. Stormzy, a south London rapper, epitomizes the rise of Grime, with his win for Best Male Act signalling a huge statement of intent and significance for an often overlooked and criticized style of music.
Becoming the first unsigned rapper to appear on the hugely influential BBC music program Later… with Jools Holland (below), his music has spread like a forest fire, with his highly energetic stage presence and specialist discourse resonating with a huge audience of enthusiasts who seemed to lose faith with the movement post 2009.
The term “Grime” was first conceived back in the early 2000s—2002 to be precise—with the release of the now pivotal “Eskimo” white-label beat by Wiley Kat (today simply known as the godfather of Grime, Wiley). This was the first track to ever be called Grime and it set the tone for what a genre that was birthed from Hip-Hop with elements of UK garage, drum and bass, jungle and dancehall.
Just as Hip-Hop before it, Grime is seen as a direct reincarnate of punk within Britain. Voicing the state of discomfort of constantly being shunned and dehumanized in an aggressive and violent manner, it invokes highly-charged political and social spluttering of vernacular aimed to create a reaction from both its lovers and haters in equal measure.
A huge influx of artists and groups latched on to the “youth making music for the youth” ethos Wiley set, from the likes of Giggs, Chipmunk, Kano, Jammer, Roll Deep and the massive Boy Better Know crew (founded by brothers JME and Skepta). The movement, although solidifying its status in the underground, slowly started to make its way to the forefront.
The now infamous Lord of The Mics clash of Kano and Wiley battling each other in rounds defines the camaraderie yet vicious rivalry that intensified with the rise of technology and the birth of YouTube rap battles.
Along with the Mercury Award winning success of 2003’s Boy In Da Corner by Dizzee Rascal, Grime was now not just limited to audiences of young teenagers but critics and music lovers alike.
Since then, the movement slowly started to decrease in terms of exposure and listeners. While true aficionados of the genre, such as the legendary radio DJ Logan Sama, chose to stick with Grime, a large number of listeners seemed to switch to the Dubstep vibe that hit its peak at the end of 2000’s. Grime was written off as a faze that didn’t have enough integrity or pulling power to grow to the dizzying depths of Britpop, or even punk that came to define certain eras of British society.
In truth, the movement was living in exile and a state of transformation. Wiley released Wearing My Rolex, a complete departure from the dark, sinister and utterly enthralling beats that characterized his ability. It was a track of diluted, housey upbeat style that saw many Grime fans rage in uproar. Whilst nuggets of pure Grime sensations broke out, such as Boy Better Know’s “Too Many Man” (below), the scene struggled to revive itself and conclusively survive. Not many people gave it a chance, with many of its originators moving to more commercial and dance orientated ventures.
It was regrettably neglected moving into the following decade.
Then out of nowhere in mid-2014, an encouraging stream of artists and innovators returning to the roots broke out with a bang and back into people’s consciousness. Skepta’s lung-busting “That’s Not Me” and “Shutdown” were huge anthems on the UK dancefloor circuit, along with the brilliant Big Narstie, the aforementioned Stormzy and the high-charting Krept and Konan, who gained massive breakout attention.
Grime was also being recognized internationally (which it didn’t achieve during its so-called golden age), proven by Kanye West’s memorable performance at the Brit Awards with the crème de la crème of Grime heavyweight legends.
Even better Wiley, the undisputed godfather, had heads turning with a triumphant return to what he knew best, with the track called “On A Level” from his tenth studio album, Snakes and Ladders. This was due to Skepta’s advice to return “to his element” of true Eskibeat style and rhythm. It was a warning shot to all those doubters who undermined the creative reputation of Grime and its core following, which set about a chain reaction the following year of continuing its trend of success and identification as a key staple of British music.
Artists like Mez, Snowy and J Hus are predicted to carry the flame for Grime and produce the next generation of lethal MCs with a point to prove.
It remains to be seen whether the genre and its originators can achieve the longevity of influential urban movements of yesteryear, but let’s just hope the trend continues going into 2016. One thing’s for sure though—Grime shouldn’t be written off once again, as it may just come back to bite even harder than ever.