What It Is? (Grime)

Grime came out of UK garage music, which was a sort of sped up UK raver version of house music.
Classic house music tempo is 120bpm, wheras garage (also known as “speed garage”) is
usually at 140bpm. The music was mostly instrumental, but when played at the same raves that
jungle (a/k/a drum n bass) was played at, the MC toasting culture (via JA) crossed over.

Initally, the MC’s role was just to exhort the crowd through simple chanted slogans and
catchphrases. Eventually this evolved into full on MCing, with groups like So Solid and
Pay as U Go, though the lyrical content was not really up to par with US rap.

There’s defintely some Wu Tang influence in that So Solid video. This was the peak period
for UK Garage. So Solid had big video budgets, Top of the Pops appearences and a high
gloss, big money, bling bling image. However, in the trend hungary UK, things change
quickly. And the core urban audience had moved on.

At some point, in 2003, two records changed up UK garage culture:

Suddenly, things were stripped down and without as much emphesis on a house 4/4 beat with
the kick on the 1 and 3 and the snares on the 2 and 4. Suddenly accents were all over the
place and there was alot more space for MC’s. And there were ALOT of MC’s. I attribute
some of this to the worldwide expolsian in popularity of US hip hop in the late 90’s. Biggie,
Puffy, 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre were famous among urban youth worldwide. It was not
neccesary to be a hardcore hop fan to hear this stuff in London, it was pop music. But, when
these London kids picked up the mic, they rapped over UK garage. Here is a great clip
from when garage had started to cross over to grime.

The clip was filmed in a pirate radio station, an illegal radio station run out of empty
room in a high rise building. With no clubs (or “raves” in UK parlance) wanting to book
this stuff, pirate radio was the only outlet.

The first commercial sucess in grime was Dizzee Rascal, who was signed to XL, after his white
label of “I LUv U” was a big underground hit. The classic grime sound was UK garage mixed
with the US hip hop of Timbaland (a BIG influence), the Neptunes, Swizz Beatz as well as the
downsouth style of Mannie Fresh and Beats by the Pound. And of course, there is heavy
influence from Jamaican dancehall, with it’s use of off kilter rhythms.

After that, there was a spate of signings, with Wiley, Kano, and Lethal B all getting
signed to major labels. Interestingly, many of these grime artists had also been
garage artists, Wiley in Pay as U Go and Lethal B in More Fire Crew. However, none of
new signees duplicated Dizzee’s success. On a small level, there were a lot of white
labels, DVD’s, and mix tapes released, but still not alot of grime based club nights.

Fast forward a few years to 2008, grime is basically dead as vinyl format, mix CD’s are
the format of choice. There are still no grime MC’s besides Dizzee signed to major labels.
The return of speed garage (now called “niche” or “bassline”) has pushed grime off many
of the pirate radio stations that supported it in the first place.

Without the possibilties of a pop outlet, grime is starting to go back underground to a world of hardcore fans and endless spitting, some brilliant, some monotonous as hell. Though with mainstream rap clown Tim Westwood (drop the bomb on the big dawg, yawn yawn ) finally paying attention, there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

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3 Comments

  1. chad
    Posted January 20, 2008 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    why you say
    mainstream rap clown Tim Westwood
    ?

  2. Posted January 21, 2008 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    seriously chad?

  3. Posted January 21, 2008 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I have to side with “chad” on this one. i was disappointed that you stooped to the level of a “dis” (short for disrespect) when it comes to addressing the godfather of UK rap.


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