U.K. grime has been in hip-hop headlines a lot recently—mainly for its co-signs from Drake and DONDA don, Kanye West. First to bat was Drizzy, referencing Skepta's "That's Not Me" lyrics in his verse on Weezy's "Used To," before shouting the Brit MC out in the credits page of If You're Reading This, It's Too Late.
Following that, Yeezy brought half the grime scene (Skepta included) on-stage for his epic debut of "All Day" at The Brits, which was quickly followed by a sold-out, grime-meets-rap gig in London with those very same riddim riders.
But what some U.S. rap fans might think is a new genre, really isn't: grime music has been heavy in the underground for well over a decade now. MTV News already introduced you to some of the talents in this recent round-up, but here are a few basic pointers for inquiring rap minds that want to learn some more.
In The Beginning, Was The Grit
Rooted in U.K. garage and jungle, Jamaican dancehall and American hip-hop, grime grew from its base in East London (circa 2001) as a form of angst-ridden expression against the oppression facing these young voices on a daily basis. But it's not all that deep: sonically—sharp-shooting flows, delivered on palettes of icy synths and guttural bass—it was new, exciting, full of bounce, and quickly garnered interest from fans and critics alike.
One of the crews many grime artists believe paved the way for them, and the genre in general, is U.K. garage outfit So Solid Crew. The platinum-selling gang from South London took UKG out of the champagne-clad nightclubs and dragged it up and down the hoods of the U.K., lacing "dark garage" backdrops with their (sometimes) unwelcoming tales. And, here we are today.
Pirate Radio Life
Deja Vu FM, Rinse FM, Flex FM, Freeze FM, Axe FM—these were some of the staple radio stations illegally held up in high-rise flats in and around London town. Rinse FM now has a full licence, as do some of the others, but online radio stations are the way forward right now; Radar Radio, Mode FM and NTS are currently keeping the airwaves fully loaded. And although it's more of a visually-led franchise, Tim & Barry's Don't Watch That TV does its bit too, so hit them.
Crew Game Tight
Current crews lighting up sets/stages: Boy Better Know (above), The Square, StayFresh, Family Tree, OGz, Bloodline, Newham Generals, W.A.V.E Gang, Slew Dem, Invasion Alert. Retired crews you should know: N.A.S.T.Y Crew, Roll Deep, Ruff Sqwad, SLK, Boyz In Da Hood, Aftershock, Roadside Gs.
The Style World Can't Get Enough
Grime's been shutting down Fashion Week, long before the recent co-signs of Nasir Mazhar, Virgil Abloh, and Astrid Anderson: in the mid-00s, Parisian fashion designer Jean Charles De Castelbajac (or JCDC, as Slew Dem dubbed him) and London's Cassette Playa ran the roads with their quirky, grime-inspired garms. To this day, their iconic contributions to the fold are held in high regard from all corners.
The Tastemakers Are Territorial
Over the years, the scene's leading tastemakers have made sure mainstream media takes grime as serious as can be. Elijah & Skilliam, Logan Sama, Laura 'Hyperfrank' Brosnan, Chantelle Fiddy, Sian Anderson, myself and a select few others have dedicated entire careers to the growth of grime culture and, at this point, it's more than just music—it truly is a way of life.
Clashing Is Part Of The Foundation
Clashing—or battle rapping, as it would be known in the States—is part of grime's make-up. A way to inject some excitement into the scene, the pitting together of two bold MCs as they throw lyrical jabs at each other (suck your mum disses, and all), has almost become a pay-to-watch sport. Get your bars out or get weighed in! Lord Of The Mics is the leading platform for said sport, and it's usually filmed over time for a full DVD release (yes, Drake's a fan of it too). But peep this full report for all the recent goings-on in the land of war.
Platforms You Should Be Checking For Your Grime Fix
The Grime Report / SB.TV / Keepin It Grimy / GRM Daily/Complex U.K./ Noisey U.K. / RWD