Don’t Just Call It Grime
Article by Roberta Hickey
‘I think that it’s up to individuals to decipher that not everything that comes out of the UK is grime.’ Kojey Radical
It’s undeniable that the resurgence of grime has had a hugely beneficial effect on the UK music scene especially in terms of recognition for urban artists. However, is this huge success making it difficult for the new wave of urban acts to carve out their own path and not be automatically labelled as grime. We chatted to some of the most exciting artists around at the moment; A2, Avelino, Kojey Radical, Fekky & Mista Silva to hear their thoughts.
When asked to describe their sound there was certainly a theme in responses with A2 describing his as ‘unique’, Avelino going with ‘distinct’ and Fekky referring to his as ‘just myself, free’. So how do this new wave of artists who each have their own sound and style feel about being so often placed in the grime bracket?
Well, overall positively. Kojey Radical told us that ‘It’s definitely been positive with regards to shedding light on the UK scene. I think because very little was known outside of ourselves by the rest of the world that I think when introducing anything it’s easier to introduce as a package and for it to be interesting because hip hop isn’t our genre it had to be something we created and we created grime — the UK created it.’ Despite acts such as Fekky and Kojey referring to themselves as hip hop artists this theme of the pride of the UK heritage of grime was apparent throughout all our conversations. Grime has a heritage and has worldwide acclaim, Kojey continued with ’when travelling and you introduce yourself as British and you say you make music and people’s response is ‘oh like grime music’. I always say it’s fair enough but you have to laugh and say ‘well erm no’. Then they ask well what do you make and then I realise I don’t have a name for it so then you just accept the fact that they think it’s grime and it’s kind of like a vicious cycle because you don’t actually educate everybody on the difference of what genres are but then grime does have a rich history.’ Kojey raises the key issue here, it’s an education process in the UK and for the rest of the world that the artists need to take on board to define themselves. Fekky states that ‘I think that’s why people lean towards to the term grime because if they say UK hip hop it’s like what is that? But then people saying anything urban that comes from the UK is grime is rubbish. Grime has a certain sound about it.’
With A2 supporting Stormzy on his UK tour and Avelino having Stormzy, Skepta and Wretch feature on versions of his track No Bad Energy we asked them if they felt that this strong association with grime artists is counterproductive when trying to differentiate themselves from this genre stereotype. A2 who’s signed to Tinie Tempah’s Disturbing London label did not feel pigeon holed by being Stormzy’s support he said, ‘outside of England though they call everything grime, so outside of England I’m grime but in England, nah. The music itself sounds too different for it to be grime, I mean anyone who doesn’t know much about music will think it’s grime but I think a lot of people there won’t consider it grime. The music is a lot slower, even someone said it to me — you’re music is a lot slower so you can tell it’s different.’ Avelino explains the thought process behind having three grime big players on his track saying that ‘sonically and the energy for me it was everything I see at shows, the MC’s, the mosh pit, the vibe which is why I got Skepta and Stormzy on there, that’s why it’s edgy, it’s punky for me already in the creation of the track. So the guys I’ve pulled in on the song I’m not running away from that affiliation or association it’s something to embrace and be proud of. I just hope that i can assert myself strongly enough over the course of career that people can see I embrace the scene but at the same time am also distinctly quite separate.’
Avelino hits the nail on the head with his last comment of embracing the scene whilst still defining his own sound. Fekky states that even though he can feel pigeon holed when he looks at ‘interviews and write ups and they say the grime guy or this stuff’ he’s still very positive about the success of the scene; ‘Yeah 100% any attention over here whether it’s grime, r n b, whatever it is I feel like a bit of attention always helps everyone. Everyone’s going round selling out tours and shows, everyone’s feeding their families and doing great things with it so I have nothing bad to say on it, it’s definitely helped.’ Kojey has a similar view, he tells us about the ‘crazy articles’ people will post such as ‘ Kojey; The Saviour of Grime Music’ when in his mind he’s never made a grime record in his life. He does recognise though that ‘if you’d grown up in the UK from the early 2000’s, you were probably directly influenced by grime in some way and I think what will start to happen is that people will just become grime artists by association because they’re from the UK. I understand that to promote the article to whoever they’re trying to pitch it to they need an angle, they need a selling point and all of these words become meaningless and that’s why people have no value in genres anymore because realistically they’re just a way to sell music.’ Avelino tells us that he’s ‘not one of the people that gets mad when I see a blog or someone call me grime even though I’m quite clearly not when you listen to me. I’m not mad at it because grime is to me deeper than the sound. It’s not just the sound it’s a culture, it’s a word use, it’s the way we dress, it’s the way we roll. I’m not mad at it for that reason but if we’re talking about the way I am musically and sonically then I am definitely not in that zone i’d definitely class myself as a hip hop MC at the same time evolving as you may have seen and hopefully will see in the future.
A genre that is really coming into fruition thanks to artists like Wizkid & JHus is afrobeats. So we caught up with Mista Silva on his views on the growth and development of this genre. ‘When I first started in 2011 people weren’t sure what my sound was or how to deal with it — as it’s come on and got bigger people are more accepting of it and understanding it.’ Mista Silva also looks positively on the resurgence of grime saying ‘It’s been good to see because it shows the versatility of sound in London to be honest. It’s good to see good music coming through generally. Be interesting to see the next wave of the Afro generation — it’s making things start happening so it’s a positive in a way.’ With the success of grime and the rise of afrobeats we asked the artists if they ever felt pressure to conform in order to achieve mainstream success. Kojey had certainly experienced this answering ‘Yeah in the beginning as certain sounds were becoming more popular, afro swing and grime for example, there’s always going to be this slight pressure to conform in order to achieve the same sort of success. But my argument to that is no one necessarily knew based on formula alone that anything was going to be successful, you need to go with what you are what your influences are and if that becomes a popular sound then so be it.’ A2 is very clear that he won’t be conforming as his measurement of success is to ‘Leave a mark, leave a stamp. So a younger person can look back in ten years and say the way A2 done it was very specific just like the way they say Tupac done it, Eminem done it all of these individual artists like Michael Jackson, Prince the way they done it was unique, that’s how I want to do it — to leave a unique mark.’
It’s undeniable that the resurgence of grime music in the UK has had a complete positive effect on UK Urban music as a whole and the term ‘grime’ has a much wider meaning than referring to music from grime MC’s. ‘Grime’ is now a movement, a culture, a proud representation of UK music heritage. It’s a super exciting time with many of the new wave of urban acts referring to themselves as ‘other’ or ‘alternative’ so I for one am very much looking forward to seeing how the UK music market further grows and develops and how we educate the world on the myriad of sounds that the UK market can offer.