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Delving into the world of Grime.

It may have stumbled slightly over what to call itself, but Grime, as it has begrudgingly become branded, is fast becoming recognized as one of the UK’s most musically innovative and creatively cutting-edge subcultures. Born ostensibly from the streets and estates of East London, the music is steadily emerging as a sonic tour de force.

An amalgamation of UK Garage with a bit of drum’n’bass, a splash of punk and a touch of hip-hop thrown in for good measure, Grime manages to remain utterly and distinctly unique. Initially derided as a weird-sounding, trouble-causing, overviolent offshoot of an already dying UKG, envelope-pushing producers like Terror Danjah and enigmatic MCs like Kano, now find themselves scouted by record labels, dominating digital TV channels, sneaking onto the Zane Lowe show and appearing on remixes for the likes of The Streets.

Kano and No lay

Indeed, with Dizzee’s domination of the Mercury Music Prize, Shystie and Durrty Goodz signing to major label Polydor and Lethal Bizzle’s cranium-cracking Pow! blasting from the airwaves, Grime is quickly threatening to surpass the genre from which it sprang. Having all but ignored UK urban music for years, even American artists and magazines like XXL are opening their ears to the cockney accents spitting their stories over chaotic keys and speaker-smashing bass. “I like Dizzee,” Lil Jon said recently, joining the Dylan Mills fan club, which also includes Andre 3000. “Even if I don’t know what the f**k he be saying.”

It’s not just acclaimed American artists that are hopping aboard the bandwagon. 1Xtra presenter and Def Jam A&R, Semtex, who also acts as Dizzee’s DJ, notes the growing appeal Grime is garnering the world over. “I think what Diz and Wiley have done is beautiful,” he says of the two, generally considered the granddaddies of Grime. “They’ve put East London on the map. To deejay in Australia and Japan and see how they know everything about the lifestyle, music and culture, from Wiley to Roll Deep to Ayia Napa, is just incredible.”

Roll Deep and Durrty Goodz

Dizzee and Wiley are just two artists featured on a new compilation by indie label 679, an album that could come to be considered a seminal introduction to the genre. Gathering tracks from multifarious metaphor-spitting rhymers, including Roll Deep’s Riko and Newham General D Double E, Run The Road showcases the finest in both established artists as well as up and comers like Bruzer, Trim and Demon. The 16 tracks on offer represent pretty perfectly the sound, energy and importance of the music, from the aforementioned Terror Danjah’s gun-clapping Cock Back to producer Target’s introspective Chosen Ones.

The worry now, of course, is whether Grime will go the way of UKG and end up merging into the mainstream – its real roots lost to the corporate coin eager to rake in the cash rather than build and nurture. However, for the kids who attend raves like Wiley’s Eskimo Dance, hang out at record shops like Rhythm Division, text pirate stations Rinse and Raw Blaze for reloads of their favourite tunes, as well as the artists themselves, there’s little concern with what the record labels think. “I’ve seen a lot of people at the top end of music who have no idea what’s going on in the street,” says 18-year-old Lady Sovereign, whose ear-splitting Cha Ching is just one highlight on Run The Road. “They’re asking ‘What’s the hottest thing?’ And these people are controlling music? Some of them ain’t got a clue.”

Terror Danjah and Ears

Semtex agrees. “The biggest conflict I have is with major labels because they still don’t get it,” he sighs. “Abroad, they understand the cultural value and music of our artists. In places like France they have a remit where they have to play a certain amount of French music, so French hip-hop does really well there. If we had that for Radio 1, Capital and Galaxy you can guarantee we’d have a beautiful industry.”

Hattie Collins 19 November 04
Run The Road, released 15 November 04 on 679 Recordings.
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