Just the question itself I’m sure will draw much initial scepticism and doubt. We certainly live in a time where there are more prominent and active Grime artists than ever before and this can certainly be perceived as a progression and perhaps even an ascension into the world of pop culture that Grime has (as much as it will deny it) fought to reach since the dizzying heights of 2003 (pun).
We’ve had Chip break the glass ceiling and cross over to the U.S, working with household names, and the Newham Generals are constantly (maybe quietly to some) setting new levels as they tear through Asia in particular. But other than that there is only grey area success. Tinie isn’t Grime, Giggs isn’t Grime, Wretch isn’t and although it’s difficult to tell, Stormzy isn’t Grime either. These artists may know how to ride a 140bpm and keep the inherently british wit in their bars synonymous with Grime and garage but at any point in their careers, the lions share of artists who are believed to march into battle holding the Grime flag high, have distanced themselves from the at times identity-less genre. Laying claim to Rap/Hip-Hop or even Pop.
Of course as you read this you are screaming the names of the true kings of the genre, BBK. I haven’t forgotten them, but they are the exception that proves the rule if you ask me. JME, Skepta, Wiley, Shorty, Frisco and Maximum, this is like the English Wu-Tang (calm down rap heads) this is a team of UK artists that move at their own pace, set their own rules and strive, actually strive, to not sound like anything that has come before them. JME and Skepta aren’t about to give you a ‘One Take Freestyle‘ and Wiley is the man who created the track that was eventually sampled by RudeKid to make the track that everyone and their Nan is spitting on now, for pete’s sake. And for me, the whole ‘One Take Freestyle‘ move, as nice as it is to see what is essentially just competition from artists showing what they can do over RudeKid and Ghetts banger, it’s just a pissing contest right?
To date we’ve had at least a dozen ‘One Take Freestyle‘ verses from pretty much everyone active. Like everyone. The tracks are good, of course they are, Grime is sick but we’re not at a house party anymore. We’re on the big stage now. We don’t have to prove anything to the world let alone each other.
It’s 2016 and we still can’t decide, as a unit, what the term ‘Grime‘ means, which is a good thing. It should be fluid, it should be an attitude, a humour or something specifically unique to the culture of English life from a certain perspective. Unfortunately ‘tho it seems right now we’re so lost in what defines the movement that we are looking back and trying to see if we left its definition back there, maybe it fell out of our pockets. We sample classics that are no more than 15 years old and recycle them for the new generation, while sometimes we just re-make literally the sounds that made the genre originally and hope that those just hitting their teens now don’t know the reference track.
Case in point below. I may be wrong but… is this supposed to be new?
Is it ok to remix a song this long after the fact tho really? Is it better than the original? No, it’s not. “POW” is one of the best ever right? So why can Section Boyz remix it now?
Bonkaz (who i rate) released this somewhat self-titled track that sampled Dizzee Rascal’s “Bonkers” which is no more than five years old and a sign of the demise of Grime’s greatest success (don’t argue, Boy In Da Corner). In a world of hip-hop sampling where we judge Kanye West for sampling Daft Punk for “Stronger” (heinous) this is cool? Is it?
My issue is, who are we making it for? Is it natural anymore? Does Grime come from somewhere or does it just come from Grime? Where is our OutKast? WHERE IS IT!?!? The UK Urban music scene has been going for a while now yet there is yet to be an act that separated itself from the sonics of the scene while still embodying the message. JME is the closest, nobody makes JME music like JME but one act does not a scene make. Are we saying that if Stormz went from 140bpm to 90bpm overnight that he’s no longer Grime? it feels that way.
We gritted our teeth and survived the era where the only way you’d get radio play is if you had a floppy haired white guy singing your hook and now we stand alone. It’s on us. The vast majority of the mainstream culture in this country doesn’t get or like Grime and that’s fine, it’s a counter-culture, but that doesn’t mean we should just stick to what we know to keep the fans we have does it?
Are we Grime fans because we feel we have to be because if we don’t advocate it the scene and sound will die? Or do we actually, really, still want to hear the same synths and drums from the early millennium and rely solely on re-tweetable lines to have any penetration into the mainstream? Or should we expect more?
Grime is the voice of the U.K underground and if we’re saying that the UK’s underground can be encapsulated in a hashtag then we really don’t understand what it means to be a UK counter-culture movement. Look at Punk, are we Punk? We should be Punk. Let’s be Punk.
We all love to see artists who originate from Grime, Garage and even dub step succeed, but when has that ever actually pushed the genre? We were called ‘back up dancers’ and that was the peak. In my opinion we shouldn’t want to be on the stage at the BRITS. Adele can do that, Tinie can do that, Rita Ora can do that but that’s not what Grime is. It started from the rooftops and the house party and yes now it’s on the airwaves but only when a real, dedicated and niche DJ advocates it. If Sian Anderson tells you to listen, you listen, if DJ Cameo does, we shouldn’t care and even deeper, Charlie Sloth. Charlie Sloth is a paper mache Tim Westwood who comes from not just hip-hop, UK hip-hop. He’s a follow fashion of Grime.
Grime needs to stand alone and not care if its sound is suitable for the BBC, or if it’s gonna get stage time at the BRITS. And even more, Grime doesn’t need that false validation. Grime doesn’t need to get together and have one big patting on the back from GRM at the rated awards. Trinkets won’t feed my kids and underground accolades such as the Rated Awards are just barking in the dark. It’s self serving and it’s damaging.
Grime is in a crucial position. It’s either step away from the crowd and once again force it’s own agenda or continue to just go with the flow and keep banging the same drum until that one hook lands and we can get a solid PRS cheque.
I’ll leave you with this…. KSI is a Fifa YouTuber. He’s not David Vujanic yet here he is trying to make genuine Grime. Use this as a leveller of where we are.