2015: the year of grime
Brap brap brrrrrap! Erupting out of the playgrounds and council estates of London at the turn of the millennium, grime quickly established itself as the most exciting and original British genre since punk. Between 2003 and 2006 you couldn’t walk down the street in the capital without hearing it’s distinctive 16bar rhymes and icy electronics blasting from car radios and open windows. Taking dancehall, UK garage and the ragga influenced rap style of jungle MC’s and fusing it all into something new, grime was a breath of fresh air in a music scene at the time dominated by guitar bands and vintage hats.
Critical acclaim and major label money quickly followed, with record deals for the scene’s breakout stars. Among them Roll Deep (whose Flowdan and Manga will be appearing with The Bug this year at Sónar 2015) and a north London MC by the name of Skepta, whose tongue in cheek wordplay and devastating takedowns had him tipped as the successor to Dizzee Rascal.
But grime’s big moment wasn’t to be. Just as punks’ hard edge and harder politics had been blunted by 1979, in 2006 grime faced a crossroads: with both pirate radio and the hastily organised parties or ‘raves’ coming under increasing scrutiny from the police, the scene had to evolve or disappear. Some artists turned to pop, forming the template for the 4/4 rap rave that still soundtracks stag do’s around the world. The others went underground.
Fast forward a decade and grime looks to be finally having its time in the sun. Veterans of the UK scene such as Skepta and JME have new releases lined up, while Kanye West’s recent Brit Awards performance featured the best part of the scene old and new. And with the increased attention comes new forms of collaboration (the pairing of dance music veteran Mumdance with prolific south London MC Novelist is a notable example), pushing the genre into the future. Whether it’s down to the economic downturn, the growth of filesharing, or just the hard graft and dedication of those early pioneers, what’s clear is that the stark synth stabs and ferocious MCing of classic grime chime more than ever with a global audience. And this time it looks like it’s here to stay.