by Mike Vinti
Last time round we focused on the explosion of hip hop taking place across the UK, this week we focus on the UK Rap scene’s mainstay: Grime.
Grime initially took off in the early 2000s thanks to pioneering production and vocal stylings of artists like Skepta and Wiley, whose invention of ‘Eski-beat’ birthed grime as we know it. Characterised by double-time rapping and generally sticking around 140 bpm, grime is hip hop’s faster, louder, and often far more hype cousin. Unfortunately, I was eight years old in 2002 and subsequently missed out on a lot of ‘OG’ grime. In better news however, after a lull in which the closest thing to grime you’d find on the radio was Wiley’s rather ill-considered attempts at pop, grime is back. With it comes a wealth of fresh, young, talent, raised on the genre’s roots and unafraid to experiment.
Unfortunately, I was eight years old in 2002 and subsequently missed out on a lot of ‘OG’ grime.
The grime resurgence kicked off proper last year, with the release of Meridian Dan’s ‘German Whip’. The track blew up online and sparked renewed interest in the scene both from the press and from the public at large. Since then artists like Fekky and Stormzy have been growing in both profile and talent, shutting down 1xtra session after 1xtra session and proving there’s life in grime yet. Novelist’s collaborations with producer Mumdance took the genre down a darker, semi-industrial path fusing stripped back production with grime’s trademark bouncing flows and London slang.
Meanwhile the pioneers of the genre have been back in the studio’s harnessing the energy of the youngsters to drive their own sounds forward. Skepta and Wiley led the charge with ‘That’s Not Me’ and ‘On a Level’ respectively, proving that the old guard can keep up with the fresh blood in the scene. Skepta’s subsequent releases have seen him collaborate with New York’s RATKING on the ‘US Remix’ of That’s Not Me and reignite some old rivalries, most notably with Devilman, on ‘Nasty’. His take on the revival is one that fuses the hard edged origins of the scene with video game sound effects and acid basslines and even sees him sampling a Vine from Canada’s main-man, Drake, on ‘Shutdown’.
Kano has consistently been one of grime’s most gifted lyricists and has always been found on the scene’s hottest instrumentals and his return to the scene is no exception. The three tracks he’s released since august, ‘Flow of The Year’, ‘Hail’ and ‘New Banger’ have all been showered with critical praise and love from new and old fans alike. Kano’s flow is unstoppable and his ability to craft bangers is only rivalled by the likes of Lethal Bizzle, who we’ll come to shortly. His latest work is a more mature version of the sound he perfected on tracks like ‘Ps &Qs’ but it stays true to its roots, even going as far as sampling Tempa T’s legendary ‘Next Hype’ during the breakdown of ‘Hail’.
Kano has consistently been one of grime’s most gifted lyricists and has always been found on the scene’s hottest instrumentals and his return to the scene is no exception.
Grime, like much of the UK Hip Hop scene, is built on collaboration and for every new banger in the grime revival you can guarantee they’ll be a remix or two featuring everyone D Dubble E to the artist formally known as Chipmunk, who now goes by ‘Chip’. Most notable on the features front are JME Tempa T, who both feature on nearly every ‘all-star’ remix and the revival’s winner of ‘most hype track’ Lethal Bizzle’s ‘Rari Workout’.
Lethal B is probably the highest charting and one of the most popular grime artists and while much of the scene disappeared between ’09 and ’14 his output has remained more or less consistent. Most recognisable will be ‘Pow!’ both the original and 2011 versions, and ‘Leave it Yeah’ which blew up thanks to a remix featuring a verse by footballer and cultural icon Emmanuel Frimpong. He also coined the term ‘dench’, so that’s a thing.
Grime, like much of the UK Hip Hop scene, is built on collaboration
All of this and we haven’t even got to the comeback of grime’s favourite child, the one and only Dizzee Rascal. Announcing his return to the scene with ‘Couple of Stacks’, a track originally only available to stream for 24 hours over Halloween last year, Dizzee has jumped in the booth with Fekky for the gargantuan ‘Still Sittin’ Here’ and been flexing his lungs and well-known sense of humour on latest single ‘Pagans’.
Newham Generals graced Norwich with their presence a couple of weeks back as part of David Rodigan’s RamJam night at Open; not one to fall behind the generals’ D Dubble E recently put out ‘Lovely Jubbly’ a hilarious, analogue synth laden tale of D Dubble’s less than legitimate business dealings.
(Dizzee Rascal © huffingtonpost)
footballer and cultural icon Emmanuel Frimpong […] coined the term ‘dench’, so that’s a thing.
Sadly, however not everyone has been able to find their place in grime-two-point-o so let’s take a moment to remember the likes of Tinchy Strider, who’s incredibly misjudged collaboration with noughties children’s entertainers The Chuckle Brothers, titled ‘Oh Dear’, provoked a similar reaction
The grime revival is giving white boys like myself who were far too young to understand or appreciate grime the first time round a chance to catch up on the scene and has produced some of best music in the UK in the last year.
More importantly, it’s providing a much needed platform for the working class and minorities of Britain’s big cities to speak on their experiences and hit back against the property developers and gentrifying hordes that are trying to take those cities away from them. To quote Kano ‘this ain’t no RP cup of tea music, this is real east-end theme music.’