Last year we saw a revival of a genre that has only become a bigger force in 2015 – but what exactly has made it one not to be reckoned with?
Words: Simone Wright, Subeditor: Cerys Kenneally
“If you see man driving a German whip, blacked out windows, leaning back/See man driving a German whip, look like a baller, p’s and that,” was one of the most recognised choruses in music last year, courtesy of Meridian Dan. On the same day as German Whip’s release, Skepta and JME debuted their video for the ubiquitous “That’s Not Me”. Both songs were well received nationwide on urban and renowned radio stations, hinting that the MCs hailing from Tottenham were leading a resurgence of grime.
Undeniably, grime is something that cannot be tamed. It’s a local genre, which draws influences from UK garage and dancehall that has typically been associated with an aggressive and rowdy crowd, though it’s merely a form of self-expression. It’s always been a street sound that never really reached a wider audience.
The roots of grime are underground and exclusive to London, – east in particular – and the acceptance and growth of the genre in this past year has been eye opening, particularly with the role it has within the culture of the younger generation.
From its early beginning, grime saw an incline of popularity of E3 pioneers such as Wiley, Dizzee Rascal and Ruff Sqwad dominating on pirate radio stations. Later, the likes of genre-defining collectives BBK, Roll Deep and Newham Generals show that grime has made a steady progression from the underground to mainstream. The sound has been redefined and renewed to be consumed both by the generation who grew up with it and those who missed it.
Grime matters because it’s something that is embraced both nationwide and globally – Stormzy recently made chart history with his freestyle, “Wicked Skengman 4“ charting at #18, becoming the first ever freestyle to break the UK top 40.
Skepta has made a mark globally, leading the genre to receive attention from US rappers, such as Kanye West and Drake, who have both showed appreciation for the genre. Grime has even made dents in Asia; in Japan, a girl group have even reworked Mumdance and Novelist’s “Take Time”.
The heavy presence of grime acts like BBK at festivals this summer and the efforts of people like Jammer and Wiley – MCs who have always been outspoken about the underrepresentation of grime – have truly influenced and pushed towards the birth of a new grime generation.
Grime matters because it isn’t just a genre. Not only has it made an impact on the airwaves, it has also helped revolutionise youth culture and the sound in clubs. Grime gives the younger generation a sense of hope. It is a standalone genre that has its own culture.
The people that are interested in grime now is a whole new spectrum of people!!! Widens the concept of creation & culture. #Grime
— BARS & LOTM7 OUT NOW (@jammerbbk) April 15, 2015
The music documents a strain of suffering that is personal, gritty, and in essence, grimy, which appeals to the majority of young people who can identify to the genre. It provides that younger generation with an alternative for self-expression, steering away from the attraction to gang culture. Most, if not all grime artists come from deprived areas in London, and grime has given them a platform to become an embodiment of rags to riches, inspiring the masses of younger people from similar backgrounds.
If you go to any grime event there’s always major support from other MCs and DJs. There’s always bound to be a sea of sweaty young adults putting up their “gun fingers”, and a wave of intoxicated anticipation every time a track gets a reload. It’s all a part of the culture, from the way you dress to the language you use.
The MOBOs on Wednesday represented the extent to which the genre had dominated the year in music, with almost every category having a handful of grime artists nominated. The Section Boyz stood by the culture by wearing tracksuits to collect their award for Best Newcomer. Stormzy picked up two awards for Best Male and Best Grime Act, while Skepta took home the award for Best Song. Each time an artist picked up an award, the others would join them on stage.
— #LiveInTheFleshTour (@Stormzy1) November 5, 2015
Grime matters because it has an intense feeling of pride, authenticity and solidarity. It’s raw, unfiltered, British music that is all about showing love while doing what you love – at 140 bpm. Though there was an evident struggle for it to be accepted by mainstream stations in the past, it has arguably been revitalised and achieved the commercial success it deserves today.
Grime matters because it has built its own empire that is here to stay.