RELOADS & RHYMES: EXPLORING THE FUTURE OF GRIME CULTURE

Almost a month into the new decade and fruits of the UK urban scene and it’s continued evolution are being very much enjoyed today. But unfortunately despite evolution being a widespread theme throughout the broader UK movement, the development within the Grime scene in recent years has been lackluster at best.

JME Grime mc

JME who’s long term consistency along with a selection of other Grime acts, has contributed greatly to the maintaining interest in the genre by delivering credible projects, but outside of his work, there wasn’t much to talk about. That was until the series of clashes that took us into the new year a couple of weeks ago. From Dot Rotten and JayKae, to Wiley and Stormzy, the abundance of exciting music that came as a direct result reignited the flame that seemed to be burning out and reengaged a generation of Grime fans. What we learned from the clash was that we wanted to hear more Grime and see more clashes, but it also highlighted a conflict in attitudes among the Grime hardcore and broader community.

WILEY 2020 GRIME TWEET

The climate on twitter in particular, has reflected this recent shift, with conversation revolving around older Grime fans being stuck in the past, and younger Grime kids being jaded by this attitude. The results of the clashes did a lot for empowering a generation to speak up about their grievances leading to wider discussion of the future of Grime that’s taking place today. It’s the right time to shake things up in the scene, but the issue is, not everyone’s sure where it should go next. So, at this time, in order for us to understand where Grime is going, we have to understand where it came from…

Jammers Basement – Waltham Forest…

Indicative of the cyphers, slang and nuanced elements of the culture, Grime was subconsciously or otherwise built to resemble Dancehall culture. Dubplates, riddims, reloads and clashing are all concepts at the core of it’s identity. Even considering Grime’s direct dissension from UK Garage – a form of Dance music – should come as no surprise. The core principle that Grime is made to be”danced to” first is something that shouldn’t be understated or ignored.

Unlike Rap where lyricism takes precedent over anything else, in Grime, because of the nature of the music, flows and energy take precedent in terms of the stylistic approach. This is a fundamental aspect of what makes Grime different to Rap and an important element must be acknowledged when determining it’s future. For many years Grime artists have tried to present their music within the blueprint laid out by the successes of the Hip Hop artists that preceded them, when in realty, this was possibly a misguided a approach for what is in fact a Dance music genre.

You could make the strong argument in 2020 that the bass driven, 808 farting flavour of UK Drill fulfills everything Grime had, and has to offer in a slicker package. You wouldn’t be wrong for thinking that, as UK Drill does deliver in terms of REAL wardubs, never ending social media disputes, flows and punchlines all merged together in a modern sound. But what Drill lacks is a broader lifestyle outside of participating in the highly dangerous criminality illustrated in the music.

Though UK Drill is definitely churning out a higher quality product of the same vein as UK Grime, that’s unfortunately all it’s doing. Grime has so much more to offer in terms of cultural value for the consumer. The popularity of UK Drill among young people has undoubtedly contributed to furthering the obscurity of the Grime music in the Pop culture conversation. However that’s not to say the Grime scene doesn’t have a lot to gain from the popularity of UK Drill in the grand scheme of things…

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The gripping movement has continued to evolve with the sound diversifying to Pop degree with songs such as the Post-Dubstep stylings of Headie One’s track ‘Home’ to Krept & Konans summer release ‘I Spy’. It’s obvious that the UK Drill sound is becoming less exclusively associated with the roads, and now simply being recognised as a formula for modern Rap music. And in a great irony, in doing so, has come to closer resembling Grime music than it ever did before. When you take this and the current influence of the sound into consideration, it only seems fitting that the UK Drill influence will inform a lot of new music, as it’s already beginning to.

Whether Grime starts to sound like Drill or Drill starts to sound like Grime, or Grime starts to sound like something completely different, though the sound is important, what’s more integral to the success of the scene, is that the culture as whole moves closer to it’s “Dance-Hall” roots. The UK Garage foundation and aforementioned parallels between Grime culture and soundsystem culture are – in some regards – more important to Grime music than the sound of the music itself.

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The awakening on social media reflects the few things holding Grime back right now. The Grime community is starting to realise that there’s an air of confusion about the identity of the scene. Though what is abundantly clear is that Grime still has a lot to offer as a cultural movement. During a recent interview with the US Hip Hop Radio Host and pundit ‘Charlamagne Tha God’, Stormzy highlighted some of the comments some of these sentiments during their discussion about Grime.

“Grime’s built on clashing… That’s the total essence of Grime. Being the best MC in the room. I love the fact that Grime’s this word that everyone know’s. But in terms of the actual understanding of it, it’s sonically and culturally a mixture of so many different things, you couldn’t listen to a Stormzy album and know about Grime…If you grow up in London, you know Grime, it’s in your DNA. But when you come and you’re trying to explain it, it’s a very specific mixture so many different things… “

– Stormzy (2020)

Stormzy’s comments reinforce the important notion that Grime is a cocktail of culture, with clashing at it’s core. The Soundsystem scene with it’s clashes, dances, dubplate culture – much like Grime – also has a nostalgic undertone with history and heritage being an integral aspect of the artform. The nature of dubplate culture, taking club classics given a modern twist or a complete overhall to garner the biggest crowd reaction are nuts and bolts of clashing, and in essence is a nostalgia based activity.

So, that same thread of nostalgia that runs through Grime is also a fundamental aspect of the Dancehall scene and it comee across strongly that if our scene took a leaf out of theirs, it would in many regards allow young and old Grime fans alike to have their cake and eat it too. On top of all the cultural benefits, a dubplate fuelled clashing scene would also create a new revenue stream for artists to capitalise off the popularity of their music in a way that wasn’t possible before.

The Grime scene, in terms of it’s sound will adapt to the modern landscape with ease as proven by it’s multiples resurgences in the past. However Grime as a culture, may have a bit of a long road ahead. The future of Grime of the scene is bright, but only if the right investment in building the infrastructure is taken to grow the culture. And this pivotal period in Grime history has presented the perfect opportunity to do restructure and reintroduce Grime as the great British cultural hybrid it was always destined to be.

To be continued…

Written by Timi Ben-Edigbe

/ @TIMI.WATSONROSE