Grime is a genre of electronic dance music that emerged in London in the early 2000s. It developed out of earlier UK electronic music styles, including UK garage and jungle, and draws influence from dancehall, ragga, and hip hop. The style is typified by rapid, syncopated breakbeats, generally around 140 bpm, and often features an aggressive or jagged electronic sound.Rapping is also a significant element of the style, and lyrics often revolve around gritty depictions of urban life.
The style initially spread among pirate radio stations (such as Rinse FM) and underground scenes before achieving some mainstream recognition in the UK during the mid-2000s through artists such as Dizzee Rascal, Kano, Lethal Bizzle, and Wiley. Other prominent artists include Ghetts, Jme, Skepta, Stormzy, The Streets and grime crews such as Boy Better Know, Newham Generals, Roll Deep, and Ruff Sqwad. In the mid-2010s, grime began to receive popular attention in Australia and Canada. The genre has been described as the "most significant musical development within the UK for decades."
Grime emerged in the early 2000s in London. It has origins tied with UK pirate radio stations such as Rinse FM, Deja Vu FM, Major Fm, Freeze 92.7 and Raw Mission. At this point, the style was known by a number of names, including 8-bar (meaning eight-bar verse patterns), nu shape (which encouraged more complex 16-bar and 32-bar verse patterns), sublow (a music style and movement created by Jon E Cash with Dread D (T Williams) and crew "The Black Ops" , the name sublow being a reference to the very low bassline frequencies, often around 40 Hz) and eskibeat, a term applied specifically to a style initially developed by Wiley and his collaborators, incorporating dance and electro elements. This indicated the movement of UK garage away from its house influences towards darker themes and sounds. Among the first tracks to be labelled "grime" as a genre in itself were "Eskimo", "Ice Rink" and "Igloo" by Wiley, "Pulse X" by Musical Mob and "Creeper" by Danny Weed.
The name grime was coined by journalists who initially termed the music's sub-bass heavy sound as "grimy", which subsequently became "grime". It has also been suggested by artists themselves that the term fits as the music frequently talks about "grimy goings-on" in deprived areas.
Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, Kano and Lethal Bizzle were among the first to bring the genre to mainstream media attention in 2003-2004, with their albums Boy in da Corner, Treddin' on Thin Ice, Home Sweet Home and Against All Oddz respectively. Dizzee Rascal garnered widespread critical acclaim and commercial success with Boy in da Corner winning the 2003 Mercury Music Prize. Despite the popularity and commercial success of individual artists, many underground grime artists failed to find a platform. In response to this, Boy Better Know's Jammer created Lords of the Mics in 2004 which was an annual DVD series, showcasing underground artists participating in battle rapping and also giving them a platform through interviews.Lord of the Mics was originally sold by Jammer locally but eventually helped smaller grime artists find a platform through selling the DVDs to independent record stores throughout the UK and eventually helping grime form an internet following from uploads to YouTube. This series built a unique platform for artists, because the majority of prior exposure for these artists was through pirate radio. This video series allowed artists to be more visible, and spread their sound.
Grime has since received exposure from television stations including Channel U (later became Channel AKA, now Total Country), Logan Sama's show on London radio station Kiss FM, Sir Spyro's Grime Show on the BBC's youth-oriented digital radio station BBC Radio 1Xtra., as well as Charlie Sloth's show, which showcases various grime artists such as Stormzy, Bugzy Malone and Trim with his popular segment "Fire in the Booth" and the MOBO Awards, which launched its first "Best Grime" category in 2014 (prior to this, grime had been merged with "Best Hip-Hop" since 2011) when the show was being broadcast on BBC One.
Grime is not an offshoot of early electronic music, but rather a subgenre that draws from a wide variety of influences. Early innovative artists such as Dizzee Rascal and Wiley were able to take the strong thumping drums of drum and bass, lyricism and vocal styles of UK garage and alter some of the rhythms of dancehall to capture all three genre's essences and add a new half-time, down-tempo dimension to the mix. The genre's popularity grew exponentially in the United Kingdom, as people across the scene's musical spectrum appreciated grime's eclectic mix of instrumentation and subcultures. This hybridization united many different music scenes, allowing for it to spread in the same word-of-mouth and mixtape-based style as hip-hop, yet still appeal to fans of electronic music. It also paved the way for more electronic music artists to incorporate stronger African and Caribbean influences in the future. grime never received the same attention worldwide that it did in the UK. Much like many other less mainstream forms of British electronic music, its main scene and fan base remained in the United Kingdom.
Although grime is recognised as a creative and innovative musical style, there are other contributing factors to its rapid and widespread growth in popularity. The MCs producing current grime music are overwhelmingly young as a group, the most well known names in the industry, Dizzee Rascal and Kano, both getting their first hits at the age of 16 with "I Luv U" and "Boys Love Girls" respectively, and the resultant package of "youth making music for youth" is seen as a crucial factor for grime's success.
Grime producers often battle in so-called "war dubs".
In April 2014, Meridian Dan reached number 13 in the UK Singles Charts with his single "German Whip" featuring Big H and Jme. Two months after that, Skepta reached number 21 in the UK Singles Chart with his single "That's Not Me" featuring his brother Jme. Two months later, Lethal Bizzle released the single "Rari WorkOut" featuring Jme and Tempa T, which also charted, peaking at number 11 in the UK Singles Charts.
As of 2015, Lethal Bizzle had three of the highest charting grime songs to date. "Oi!" by Lethal Bizzle's former group, (More Fire Crew), which was released in 2002 hit number 7 on the UK Singles charts; "Pow! (Forward Riddim)", released in 2004, peaked at number 11 in the UK Singles chart and "Rari Workout" again peaked at number 11 in the UK Singles Charts in 2014.
In late 2015, following Stormzy's performance of "Shut Up" during the ring walk to Anthony Joshua's Heavyweight boxing match with Dillian White, Stormzy gained attention and pushed the song further up the charts, peaking at number eight in the UK Singles Chart.
In May 2016, Skepta's fourth studio album, Konnichiwa, entered the UK Albums Chart at number two. The album explored grime's relationship with the United States, and features appearances from ASAP Mob members Young Lord and ASAP Nast as well as production and vocals from Pharrell Williams. The album was awarded the 2016 Mercury Prize. International artist Drake later signed to Skepta's Boy Better Know label. Drake later included Skepta on his playlist album More Life, released in April 2017. The song, entitled "Skepta's Interlude", debuted at number 76 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making it Skepta's debut on the chart.
In February 2017, Stormzy's Gang Signs & Prayer was the first grime album to reach number one on the UK Albums Chart. In June, the British Phonographic Industry reported that grime sales had risen over 100% with physical sales growing over 109%, digital sales 51% and streaming up 138%. This led to the Official Charts saying grime had "smashed" its way into the mainstream.
As grime became more popular in the UK throughout the mid-2000s, it spread out of London to other major British cities. Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Blackpool, and Bristol now have grime MCs who are currently gaining major exposure in the scene and have featured on Lord of the Mics, an annual DVD released by Boy Better Know's Jammer.
The national growth of the grime scene has also been evident with many grime artists playing on the urban music stages of the big summer festivals such as Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, T in the Park and O2 Wireless Festival in Hyde Park. Dizzee Rascal played at all these events in the summer of 2008. In 2015, Manchester grime artist Bugzy Malone was involved in a heavily publicized grime feud with London-based MC Chip who had created controversy with comments during a Fire in the Booth session. The feud catapulted Bugzy Malone to national fame and he has so far released three commercial projects, all debuting in the top 10 in the UK with his latest album charting at number four.
The largest scene outside London is based in Birmingham and the wider Birmingham area.
So Solid Crew influenced many grime artists, their raw dark track "Dilema" considered by some to be one of the first grime songs ever. The development of grime started largely with Mike Skinner of the Streets. His debut album Original Pirate Material was released to critical acclaim, Skinner then followed this up with an EP entitled All Got Our Runnins, which featured a number of grime MCs on the remixes of some of his tracks. Skinner also produced and featured on Kano's 2005 hit single, Nite Nite, from the critically acclaimed Home Sweet Home album.
In 2004, the first in the series of Lord of the Mics DVDs was released. It featured Devilman from Birmingham, clashing Skepta. Devilman's appearance on Lord of the Mics is one of the earliest examples of a Midlands MC at the forefront of the scene and is credited by Jammer with helping to break down the stigma of accents from outside London over grime music. The clash is considered to be one of the greatest in the LOTM series with artists such as Drake praising it. Devilman would later link up with Mike Skinner to appear on the remix of "Prangin' Out".
In 2007, Trilla released the single 'G Star', produced by the Dwellaz. A fusion of grime and bassline, it became an underground hit. Several other tracks were released during this time which were also well received by fans, such as Slash's "Birmingham" and C4's "Oorite".
In 2009, Wolverhampton producer S-X released the Woooo Riddim, which was widely regarded as one of the most successful instrumentals that year, with many MCs recording their own vocals over the beat.
By the early 2010s, the grime scene in Birmingham was well established and the city hosted several highly successful events called 'Goonies' at the Rainbow Warehouse in Digbeth. These events attracted some of the biggest names in grime, most notably P-Money, who referenced the events on his single 'Slang Like This'.
Other prominent artists include Deadly, who formed the grime group N.O.D.B, the first group from Birmingham to feature on BBC Radio 1Xtra; Mayhem, who is also a founding member of N.O.D.B, known for his bombastic sound and his 2012 feud with Wiley, C4, Sox, JayKae and SafOne. Many Birmingham artists have now had success outside the Birmingham region in recent years. The fourth edition of Lady Leshurr's Queen's Speech freestyle has gained over 28 million views on YouTube as of May 2016. In 2016, Lady Leshurr won a MOBO award for the best Female Act.
As well as hosting large events, the pirate radio scene includes stations such as Silk City Radio, where Birmingham DJ Big Mikee hosts a regular slot between 10-12pm every Sunday.
Birmingham producers such as Preditah and Swifta Beater have become established figures in the grime scene, with leading artists such as Wiley giving recognition to their contribution to grime. In 2011, Preditah released his Solitaire EP; a collection of four grime instrumentals. This EP reached number 1 on the iTunes album charts.
The 2005 release of 679 Recordings' Run the Road compilation showcased some of the most popular grime releases to that point, increasing the popularity and fame of grime and grime artists internationally. A particularly notable grime artist who has had success overseas is Lady Sovereign, who appeared on Late Show with David Letterman, signed to Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records, and whose "Love Me or Hate Me" became the first video by a British artist to reach number one on MTV's Total Request Live, although her music has departed considerably from her early output on pirate radio stations, and she does not regard herself as a grime artist.
It was not until the release of his third album, 2007's Maths + English, that Dizzee Rascal experienced international acclaim. He was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize again, and despite the fact that the album was not released in the United States in 2007, it received high praise from international music critics, magazines, websites and blogs, including Pitchfork Media,Rolling Stone, and Rock Sound. By 2010, he had achieved three number one singles in a row.
A relatively small grime scene exists in Shanghai, China, started by two British expats Naaah and Alta. Unlike grime elsewhere, Shanghai grime is purely instrumental due to the lack of local MCs. Clubs play a large role in the scene, holding grime nights wherein local DJs and producers can come and showcase their music. Producers sometimes include samples and references from local pop-culture like Kung-Fu movies or Mandopop.
In 2018, Chinese rapper ? (After Journey) visited the UK to film a documentary about Grime alongside UK MC Cadell. As well as the documentary, Cadell and After Journey made the first ever grime song featuring a UK & Chinese MC called "2 Much", which was later featured by DJ Target on BBC Radio 1xtra.
In 2003, a grime scene in Osaka emerged after a group of Japanese MCs and DJs were inspired by Roll Deep's Rules And Regulations mixtape, led by pioneers like MC Dekishi, MC Duff and MC Tacquilacci. Osaka MC's are known for rapping extremely fast. Another scene sprung up in the Tokyo region of Shibuya led by Carpainter, Double Clapperz, MC ONJUICY, PAKIN and Sakana Lavenda. PAKIN visited the UK in 2013 where he was invited by Devilman to join the Dark Elements crew. Japanese Grime has however stayed an underground genre in Japan with little local media attention.
In 2013, over a hundred Japanese grime producers participated in a producer clash called War Dub Japan Cup which garnered a massive response in the UK. In 2014, Elijah and Skilliam held a set with Japanese MC's and Producers that went viral via media outlets like SB.TV and GRM Daily receiving significant attention in the UK.
In November 2018, record label Butterz celebrated its eighth anniversary at Tokyo based club Unit. Butterz are notable for having an early investment into the Japanese grime scene, going back as far as 2009 wherein Japanese producers would send the label beats via MSN Messenger.
Japanese grime has more DJs than it does MCs and as a result the former takes more importance. Lyrical content differs to UK grime, with a lack of crime related lyrics and more of a focus on societal and political issues, with rebellious counterculture elements. Japanese Grime uses samples and references from local pop-culture like Anime, Japanese Idols and J-pop.
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Grime is typified by complex 2-step, 4/4 breakbeats, generally around 140 beats per minute, or sometimes structured around a double-time rhythm, and constructed from different synth, string and electronic sounds. Self-proclaimed 'godfather' of grime Wiley claims in his 2017 autobiography Eskiboy that he personally created most of his early tracks at 140 BPM as it is the default tempo in FL Studio. Stylistically, grime draws on many genres including UK garage, drum and bass, hip hop and dancehall. The lyrics and music combine futuristic electronic elements and dark, guttural basslines.
Grime predominantly evolved from the UK speed garage scene and genre towards the latter stages, although it takes influences from other genres. According to Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker, grime has developed a fierce sound by "distilling" rhythms to a minimal style resulting in a choppy, off-centre sound. Whereas hip hop is inherently dance music, the writer argues that "grime sounds as if it had been made for a boxing gym, one where the fighters have a lot of punching to do but not much room to move." Frere-Jones also states that grime has maintained a style different to hip hop. Hattie Collins supports Frere-Jones' analysis, asserting that grime is "an amalgamation of UK garage with a bit of drum & bass, a splash of punk."
According to Alex de Jong and Marc Schuilenburg, grime music also samples sawtooth wave sounds (chiptunes) from video game music and ringtones which had become part of everyday life in London and other parts of the country;Street Fighter II, for example, is frequently sampled and referenced, as grime is "built around lyrical clashes" which are "equated with Street Fighter's 1 on 1 battles". British grime lyrics often reference communication technologies popular with artists and listeners such as smartphones and social media. Sirpixalot recently brought attention to Wolverine computer game which apparently was made in 1994 and bears some of the hallmarks sounds of grime.
As with many similar scenes around the world, grime has encountered some criticism, especially from government officials such as Kim Howells who made comments that some grime supporters claimed to find "deeply racist", referring to popular artists and crews as "boasting macho idiot rappers". A counter argument is given by Jeff Chang in an article in The Village Voice, where he said Dizzee Rascal's often violent and sexual lyrics are heralded as "capturing, encapsulating, and preserving" the life that he and his peers live on the streets every day.