Can't tell Dizzee Rascal from Rascal Flatts? Allow Sarah Jappy to educate you with a brief history of grime music...
When and where was grime born?
Grime flowered from the gritty loins of the UK garage scene in the early 2000s. Its birth was London-centric: big tunes included ‘I Luv U’ (Dizzee Rascal); Oi!’ (More Fire Crew); ‘Wot U Call It?’, ’Eskimo’ and ‘Ice Rink’ (Wiley); ‘Ghetto Kyote' (Treble Chef).
What did grime come from?
Grime grew from the increasingly MC-orientated UK garage scene: think back to the likes of DJ Luck, MC Neat, Oxide & Neutrino, So Solid Crew, Heartless Crew, Genius Cru and the Pay As U Go crew. MCs became more powerful and more visible – instead of being the hype man at a rave, they started taking centre stage on tracks, with more lyricism and more aggy vibes. The rise of bedroom producers relying on DIY software such as FruityLoops added to grime’s minimal, dark, cold sound – versus the bubbly, party-loving beats of the UK garage scene. Pirate radio stations – Rinse FM, Deja Vu FM, Freeze 92.7 and Raw Mission – were a vital mouthpiece for the genre.
Does grime have other influences?
Yup, including 2-step, jungle, dubstep, drum and bass, punk, orchestral and hip hop.
What does grime sound like?
Rowdy, bonkers, aggy, funny, violent, witty, energetic, unexpected. The sound has always been accessible and relatable, offering up witty pop culture commentary – think Dizzee rhyming ‘banana’ with ‘Tropicana’ on ‘Fix Up, Look Sharp’, or D Double E quipping about a Dyson and M. Bison on ‘Streetfighter Riddim’. If you want to be fanciful, grime is a council estate talking: police sirens, raves, threats, boasts, jokes, dustbin men, foxes, video games, shrapnel jangling in your pocket, spliffs being sparked, yatties, yardies, cabbies… (Let’s just say you couldn’t get this sound from the Cotswolds.)
What are its characteristics?
If you want to be specific, early grime typically has 135–140 beats per minute (versus UK garage’s 130bpm), eight-bar verses (though this shifted to include 16–32-bar verses) and judderingly low baseline frequencies (often around 40 Hz). For an early example, listen to ‘Pulse X’ by Musical Mob’s Youngstar.
Who were the big names back in the day?
Wiley formed Roll Deep, whose members included Dizzee Rascal and Skepta. Other names to swot up on include: More Fire Crew (Lethal Bizzle), Boy Better Know (Skepta, JME and Jammer), and Newham Generals (D Double E).
Why is grime so popular right now?
According to grime addict Vimal Shah from North London: “Grime still has a tremendous amount of energy. It’s fun; its lyrics are funny, crazy and full of madness. It certainly has hit the mainstream and people like it. Grime has many facets now: it has evolved so those that love dubstep, garage, hip hop, R&B also like grime, as it touches elements of all these genres now. Grime producers, in my opinion, are incredibly talented (Preditah, Rude Kid, Spooky, Darq E Freaker, JME, Rapid, Maniac, Jammer – the list goes on). Grime is not dead – but maybe it’s not as good as it was back in the 2000s (my nostalgia has a hint of bias attached to it).”