The conflict among the MC’s in their individual fight for artistic supremacy was a fundamental aspect of British “Rap” culture that’d fade into obscurity of late. Outside of the brutally real sounds of UK Drill. Clashing and sending war dubs as a cultural phenomenon has been a platform for MC’s to showcase their style and “micmanship” using riddims and rhymes as the vehicle. This was at the foundation of Grime culture, but with the scene lacking relevance in recent years, this particular brand of musicianship hadn’t been seen in sometime.
In the past Grime music harnessed the same energy that made UK Drill popular, without anywhere near the same amount of casualties. It came across strongly that the Grime scene that gave you beef, dizzying wardubs (strictly for the sport), soap opera social media antics and passionate music had all but vanished from existence. That was until this happened:
Grime OG, juggernaut Producer/MC Dot Rotten – known for this maverick status, incredible work rate and highly confrontational attitude. Having had a falling out with longtime production partner ‘Steel Banglez’ over the dealings of Jay1’s most recent single, took it upon himself to harness the media buzz generated by this industry turned public feud by putting the whole beef on wax at the end of last year. While Dot sent for Jay1 expecting to convert the real energy of the dispute into potent and powerful music. Unfortunately for him – at the time at least – Jay1 neglected to take up the challenge.
Thirsty for blood and true to his confrontational nature, Dot recalibrates and sets his cross hairs on a new target. Despite having a history of public disputes, Wiley avoids the firing line at this stage. Instead, for reasons that aren’t abundantly clear, he set his sights on JME – who’d just released his latest album ‘Grime MC’ – an ode to the culture of sorts. JME had spent considerable time in the albums promotional roll out discussing music consumption and the culture that informed the art direction of the overall project. I think this was not missed by Dot which informed his decision to send for JME. I guess in Dot’s mind, if he’s gunna star firing, it only made sense to fire at the most credible member of the scene and the MC wearing the scene on their chest at this particular point..
It was a fitting decision to send for JME when you consider that the Grime scene was built on clashing, a fundamental element of the culture that’d been somewhat lost in recent years. Although prevalent in Drill music, those wardubs are entrenched in real gang warfare and although its both fascinating and entertaining for those reasons. The style for style, bar for bar, flow for flow integrity and sportsmanship of the “Grime” version of the clashing artform has its own unique charm and appeal, which is less prevalent today.
Where Grime had once been the home of this form of culture, most Grime MC’s these days seem to be more – as Wiley once ironically put it – on a GETALONG GANG ting. And unfortunately, although that is a good thing in terms of everyone having happy and healthy relationships, for the sake of the culture it’s removed a vital component that made grime, grimey and the music exciting.
After JME turned down the invitation to clash, Wiley stepped up to the plate towards the end of the year and has so far released two war dubs. Unfortunately for Wiley his dubs paled in comparison to Dots quality and sheer volume of diss tracks – and he took way too long to respond, but he did officially engage in the war. Which still counts for a lot, all things considered. This was all followed up by JayKae delivering the shattering send “Shush” for Wiley and Dot, raising the stakes and solidifying the return of clashing culture. Since then even a virtually unknown MC by the name of SBK has jumped in to the clash with the dub ‘Death by Poetry’, which he sent for not only Dot, but Yizzy, T Roadz and other YG MC’s illustrating the change in consciousness among Grime fans. So we can safely assume with the way things are going irrespective of how the clash ends, the remnants of it’s impact will continue to be felt for the foreseable future.
Once upon a time if you were gunna call yourself an MC it was required that you adhere to the strict criteria that validates your title and status. And at one point, if someone – anyone – tried to lyrically draw you out in anyway, you had clap back. Even trickling down to the secondary school playgrounds across the capital. Back in the early 00’s when I was in school if a man asked if “You got chats?” if you didn’t spit your bars, you couldn’t really call yourself an MC and you didn’t. If anything you were mocked for being a mook because that’s how confrontational the culture was and is some ways returning to once more.
On top of all the clash antics, what makes things even more interesting across the broader UK Rap scene at this particular point in British Music history is the stylistic direction the production side UK Drill has taken recently. Dot Rotten himself having a number of production credits in the scene only serves to highlight the shift towards the sonics closer aligned with the Grime sound, rather US Drill sound it originated from. With the fundamental difference in the scenes being the criminality among the most popular artists.
It’s abundantly clear there’s an insatiable thirst for aggressive music among young people in the UK which has accelerated the rise of UK Drill, but this also leaves a lane open for MC’s who possibly aren’t criminally inclined, but have an aggressive sound and something to offer the landscape of modern music to carve out careers and produce some exciting sounds with the realms of possibilities being opened up.
With what’s happening in UK Drill, along with Wiley and Dot Rotten settin’ pace in steering the scene back towards its roots with clashing at the core of UK Grime. It’s looking like the successes of the last 10 years of British Urban Music are set to continue. Building on the foundations of the old, while breaking new ground with a refined UK Urban Scene, executed as a more streamlined, enhanced and exciting outfit going into the new decade.
To be continued…
Written By Timi Ben-Edigbe | @TIMI.WATSONROSE