140 beats per minute is the preferable tempo for Grime, an underground London genre that is sweeping the U.K. and shaping music charts around the world. It’s often seen as a sub-genre of hip-hop, but veterans and fans see it as something more. Mixed with dubstep, trap, hip hop, and other genres, it draws influence from the distinct UK styles of garage and jungle. Rapping is another significant element, reflecting the times and troubles of inner city life in the U.K.
The genre first emerged in London’s East End in the early 2000s, its sound robotic, jagged, and experimental. It began to play on the UK’s pirate radio stations, such as Rinse FM and Freeze 92.7, before reaching mainstream attention in 2003, with the releases of Boy in da Corner by Dizzie Rascal and Home Sweet Home by Kano, among others.
Rascal’s ‘Boy in da Corner’ won the 2003 Mercury Music Prize and was rated a 92/100 from ‘Metacritic’, which brought him widespread critical acclaim and success that established Grime on the map. As the genre spread, its popularity grew, and the MOBO Awards launched its “Best Grime” category in 2014, broadcasted on BBC One. ‘Skepta’, a current Grime artist, was even featured on Drake’s newest album, More Life, on the track “Skepta Interlude”, which helped spread the genre further, to the U.S.A. and Canada.
The lyrics of Grime include a vast array of British and American slang, and include many references to the history of the genre. One reference is the word “Mann” often heard in songs by artists such as Skepta, JME, or Stormzy. “Mann” refers to Gurdas Mann, a Punjabi singer who had some serious beef with BBK (Boys Better Know, a famous Grime label) in 2007/8, and has been disliked by the Grime community ever since.
As the world of hip-hop continues to change, it’s boundaries will be pushed even further. Strange, often futuristic, edgy sounds added to the music of rappers like Kanye West and Travis Scott, as well as the rise of rappers such as 21 Savage and Kodak Black, have been dramatically changing hip hop and its sub-genres in a way that has never been done before.
Experimental hip hop, dark hip hop, underground, gangster rap, trap music, and more, are all putting their own two cents into the genre – giving hip hop a distinct sound and culture that no other genre shares. Grime contributes to these changes by influencing the mainstream rappers of our time – such as Drake or Kanye West – and by shaping the genre to become something bigger and more popular than it ever has been, crossing the lines and hopping over borders to be a genre shared by all people – no matter their language, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality.
The comparison of hip hop and Grime is a very blurry line, each with their own differences – To be shared, experienced, and loved by everyone.
To dive into the genre, give these albums a listen:
(All photos received either from the artist’s Instagram, linked in article, or various promotional shoots. NOT our own)
Written by Marshall Bender