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Beats, Bass and Bars - The Story of Grime

Documentary. British rapper Rodney P tells the story of how grime rose from the council estates of east London to become the most important British musical movement since punk.

The story of how grime rose from the council estates of east London to become the most important British musical movement since punk.

Through personal encounters with key pioneers from the last four decades of British black music, Rodney P, the 'godfather of British rap', discovers that the success of grime rests upon previous generations of artists and learns that grime can only be truly understood when viewed as part of a broader social narrative and ever-evolving musical culture that goes back to the 1980s.

As the first generation of British-born black youth came of age in the 1970s and 1980s, the natural medium for their artistic expression was the sound system culture brought over from Jamaica by their parents and grandparents. The first major breakthrough in the evolution of a home-grown sound came in the 1980, when young reggae MCs started telling their stories in a blend of patois and cockney, reflecting the mixed multicultural environments of the British inner cities they lived in. When Rodney became a rapper, the new sound of the streets was American hip-hop.

Today it would be unthinkable for a grime artist to adopt an American twang, but back then when Rodney's crew London Posse started rapping in their own London accents, it was a breakthrough. In the early 90s, reggae toasting, British accents and sped-up hip-hop beats came together for the first uniquely British black music genre - jungle. And as the decade wore on, UK garage reflected the aspirations and optimism of Blair's cool Britannia, but it was never a platform for stories of struggle and hardship, and for the new generation of kids growing up on the council estates of east London, a harder sound was needed. Made on phones in bedroom studios, a new, sparser and more aggressive sound emerged. Spread via pirate radio stations and promoted by underground DVDs, London at the turn of the millennium saw the arrival of a new, grimier sound.

Almost 20 years on from those beginnings, grime how dominates the charts and the awards ceremonies and even influences politics. Some of its biggest names are now international celebrities, and many of them remain independent, signed to their own labels and controlling their own careers. Grime is now not just a genre, it's a way of life and, built on the foundations laid down by black British artists over the decades, it represents a defiant spirit and an independent attitude that is here to stay.

59 minutes

Last on

Fri 12 Oct 2018 22:00

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:02

    Dizzee Rascal

    Sittin Here

  • 00:04

    Burning Spear

    Slavery Days

  • 00:07

    Steel Pulse

    Handsworth Revolution

  • 00:08

    Mytton Sanneh

    Forget It

  • 00:09

    Smiley Culture

    Police Officer

  • 00:10

    Boogie Down Productions

    My Philosophy

  • 00:12

    Lady Leshurr

    Queen's Speech 4

  • 00:13

    Shy FX

    Orginal Nuttah

  • 00:16


    19 Incredible (feat. General Levy)

  • 00:16


    Incredible (Booyaka Mix) (feat. General Levy)

  • 00:16

    Roni Size / Reprazent

    Brown Paper Bag

  • 00:17


    Body Groove (feat. Nana)

  • 00:18

    So Solid Crew

    Oh No

  • 00:20

    Heartless Crew

    The Heartless Theme (A.K.A Superglue Riddim)

  • 00:21

    Pay as U Go Cartel

    Champagne Dance

  • 00:24


    Wot Do U Call It?

  • 00:29

    Platinum 45'S, More Fire Crew


  • 00:34

    Dizzee Rascal

    Fix Up, Look Sharp

  • 00:36

    Dizzee Rascal

    I Luv U

  • 00:36

    Dizzee Rascal

    Hold Ya Mouf' (feat. GodsGift)

  • 00:36

    Dizzee Rascal

    2 Far (feat. Wiley)

  • 00:39

    Dizzee Rascal


  • 00:40

    Lethal Bizzle

    Pow (Forward)

  • 00:48


    Wearing My Rolex

  • 00:50


    Rolex Sweep (Extended Mix)

  • 00:50

    Tinchy Stryder

    Something about your smile

  • 00:52

    Meridian Dan

    German Whip (Clean)

  • 00:53


    Thats Not Me

  • 00:54


    Can't Go Wrong

  • 00:56


    Shut Up

  • 00:59

    Mytton Sanneh

    Rhythm & Girls


Role Contributor
Presenter Rodney P
Executive Producer Jaimie D'Cruz
Director John Williams
Camera Operator Nicky Lessware
Assistant Producer Nicky Lessware
Colourist Mark Slobodian
On-line editing Tristan Lancey
Sound Mixer Joe Cochrane
Production Coordinator Emma Garvie
Editor Derek Kersting
Production Company Acme Films


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