To the vast majority of America, UK grime was little known before Kanye started fan-boying Skepta this year.
Born back in the early noughties in East London, grime drew from the early UK garage sounds and unlike many other genres seemed local and real. They were sounds and stories that truly came from the UK, that couldn’t be mimicked, but it never seemed to blow up commercially.
When I was in my younger teenage years, grime was rife and Channel U was the constant soundtrack in my friend’s living room - My house didn’t have Sky, still a sore memory. Lethal Bizzle and Kano were purchased on CD single from HMV and listened to on an age old stereo in my bedroom. Imagine if you will, a young teenage white girl trying to rap along to the bars of some of these tracks below…
I’m hoping to bring some fresh sounds from around the UK in future charts but to kick off, here’s a selection of grime classics and some of the tracks that got me hooked on the genre back when I was a mouthy Carbrini-hoody-wearing 13 year old.
Jammer - Murkle Man
It’s the Murkleman. Boy Better Know member and head of Lord of the Mics Jammer cuts some straightforward howling bars in this track with a video that’s vintage as. A permanent fixture on the scene since the inception of Grime, Jammer has a distinctive flow that is instantly recognisable. His beginnings were in the 187 crew which then merged into the N.A.S.T.Y crew come the millennium, N.A.S.T.Y being a platform for many key players in the UK grime scene to launch their careers. And in those early days of grime, it was such a close knit genre that most of the picks in this chart were either in the same crews, clashing on stage or jumping on each other’s tracks. It’s evolving now and it’s not just about London anymore, all over the UK those sounds are coming out of the woodwork, so watch this space. In the meantime, pay attention to one of BBK’s finest.
More Fire Crew – Oi!
One of the first grime crews on the London scene, More Fire Crew was formed by Ozzie B and Lethal Bizzle, who met when they were at school. Released in 2003, Oi! was one of the first grime tracks to gain wider recognition outside of London. It has that bouncey garage bassline running underneath the bars, showing that important progression of the genre. Despite the song being such a big success, More Fire Crew were dropped from their label, but Lethal Bizzle managed to launch himself a career off the back of it, insult Tulisa’s “technique” on video and coin his own catchphrase (and slogan T-Shirts).
JME Skepta – Spaceship
After Skepta shook off his DJ career as Moschino Joe, he began his grime journey spitting lyrics on some of the sickest beats. Because it’s not always just the bars that make a grime track, it’s that special instrumental. JME and Skepta spitting back in the day on one of the most popular instros doing the circles at those times. For those of you who don’t know, about to blow those minds of yours – JME and Skepta are brothers. Boom, how about that golden nugget of knowledge! Both members of BBK, Skepta and JME are really at the forefront of grime right now – gigs, tours, albums, the works. If you’ve listened to any of JME’s new album Integrity, you might recognise some of JME’s lyrics in this one as he finally included them on his track “Amen”. So Amen to that.
Tempa T - Next Hype
Feeling angry? Wanna blow off some steam? Yeah Tempz will sort you out. The angriest and most excitable of MCs, his delivery and flow still enchant listeners. Angrily enchant them. He’s like an angry wizard. If you’re not already sold by The Big Dawg giving Tempz a shit-kickin for having a weak par game, then the fast and thick bars coming after should have you in a strong chokehold. His energy and enthusiasm on stage earned him nicknames like ‘The hype man’, so if you’re looking for the kind of track that makes you want to sit back, close your eyes and dream of distant lands – why on earth are you reading this?
Crazy Titch - Sing Along
‘Old-school rudeboy like Crazy T’. His reputation precedes him. A violent rep at that. After his release from a few young offender institutions during his teenage years, Crazy Titch focused his attention on grime, and like Tempz, he has that irate flow and those heated bars. This track and “I Can C U” were biggies, played religiously on Channel AKA back in the day. Half-brother of notable grime and rap MC Durrty Goodz, it was his anger at Durrty’s name being dissed in a song lyric that spelled the beginning of the end for Crazy T. At only 23, he was given a life sentence for the murder of producer Richard Holmes. Although incarcerated, he hasn’t given up on producing and recording music, releasing his second mixtape in 2010, Crazy Times 2, recorded using a Playstation 3 music game.
Wiley – Wot do you call it
The Godfather of Grime. The big don daddy, Wiley’s been a key figure in UK grime from the get go. You’ve probably heard his name before, but if you don’t know, get to know. Had to stick with this old school classic, released under his alias Eskiboy, that really blurs lines between UK Garage and grime. In the early noughties he released a bunch of instrumental singles which then went on to launch his solo MC career. As I’ve said before, a dirty instrumental can be just as important in grime, and Wiley’s “Eskimo riddim” was a significant player for many artists to spit over. It was a bit of a tossup between this track and “Gangsters”, one of my favourite Wiley tunes, but this one really does sum up that garage/grime crossover. That’s Wiley’s roots – it’s the sound he came from and the sound he went on to create.
Kano - P’s and Q’s
Babyboy. A face carved by gods and he can act too, check that for multi-talented, his mum must be so proud. One of the better known names in grime, Kano’s 2005 debut album Home Sweet Home was a huge success and he was only the ripe age of 20 at the time. P’s and Q’s, meaning ‘to pay attention to the details’, was one of the six tracks released and it’s possibly one of the biggest tracks Kano’s ever laid down. Over the years he’s been recognised by the Urban Music Awards and the MOBOs to name a few, for his exceptional good looks (music). And the guy never stops. He’s been consistently laying down tracks over the last ten years, but one to wrap your ears round is ”Flow of the year” released last year with JME, stick it on asap.
D Double E - Streetfighter Riddim
Floating through all eras of grime, D Double E’s name and rep has done the rounds. First a member of N.A.S.T.Y crew, then Newham Generals, D Double E and fellow members signed to Dizzee Rascal’s label Dirtee Stank in 2005. Dizzee actually named D Double E as an idol of his growing up and rightly so, D Double’s lyrics are comical and clever and his flow is exclusive and expert. Released in 2010, Streetfighter Riddim is a classic, his lyrics invading the dubstep production rumbling underneath. D Double, and a lot of others in this chart, are still making new music, hitting those festival circuits and fully going in on Rinse FM. He was there pioneering and evolving the genre, and I’m betting he will be for years to come.
JME - R u dumb
JME throws out some of his signature insults - “Shut your mouth, dickhead, wasteman, poomplex” – just some typical grime disses right there. Throw them into your next argument, you’ll see a few confused faces. Probably my favourite guy on the grime scene, he’s got the comedy, the delivery and the best instros. With Skepta on the beat in this one and Cookie, Tempz and Wiley backing up JME on the track, it’s obviously gonna make this chart. More recently, JME dropped his album and every song is big big BIG. And since then he’s been hitting us with even more tracks, it’s like bloody Christmas. His new track “The Very Best”, a homage to Pokémon and those rare shiny Charizards is a must listen. You can get down with those bars, we were all super psyched if we were lucky enough to pocket one of those precious cards.
Lethal Bizzle - Pow 2004
A stone cold grime classic. I still know all the lyrics to this and flex my strong rap game every time it comes on. Bizzle released a second, more popular version in 2011, changing up the bars and inviting JME, Chipmunk and others to spit on a changed up instrumental. The original features D Double E, Flowdan and Napper among others, and in my humble opinion there’s no comparison. When the original track came out, not only did I buy it on single twice, but grime seemed like it was destined for huge things, the sound was raw and exciting and Bizzle wasn’t telling teens to stay dench.
There’s big sounds and new faces coming from all over the UK, and you need your finger on the pulse and your ear to the ground to catch them. But don’t fear, I’m going to do that job for you, so plug in them headphones cos it’s gonna get grimey.