The UK’s Very Own Refreshing and Upbeat Genre…GRIME

By Christivie Manga

Grime tracks tell a story of Black urban youth experiences growing up in London

Origins of Grime

Grime is a genre of uniquely Black and British electronic rap/hip-hop music that emerged in East London in the early 2000s. Grime is known to be rapid, syncopated breakbeats, generally around 140 beats per minute, and often features an upbeat or jagged electronic sound. Grime explores the Black-British experiences of estate living and growing up in the UK as a Black person. It allows Black artists to express themselves in a unique manner. Grime tracks tell a story of Black urban youth experiences growing up in London, with many artists rapping about relationships, hood life, and real personal issues. 

Grime has been described as the “most significant musical development within the UK for decades.” The most fundamental part of grime was that it defined UK rap as being separate from US rap. Grime was refreshing for many because it was uniquely British. 

So let’s dive into three key components of this catchy genre:

  • Grime music was influenced by an eclectic collection of music, fusing hip hop with a number of UK musical sub-genres that were popular in the 1990s, including UK garage music, techno, and jungle music—which is a kind of rave music influenced by a heavy backbeat.
  • Grime music typically plays around 140 bpm, giving it a very fast breakbeat and driving bass-line.
  • Grime originated in London and was made to express the lived experiences of grime musicians. Rappers on the grime scene typically have British accents, which distinguishes this kind of music from American hip-hop.

The grime music scene is made up of grime crews; collectives of musicians that produce music together and perform at nightlife venues. Grime crews came with a sense of unity, artists had a support group amongst themselves, it made them more creative and thriving.

The work crews such as Roll Deep, Nasty Crew, and Ruff Sqwad did in their early years was historical. If anyone who followed their careers at the time looks back, it’s clear that they created the foundations for what we have now. 

Channel U was a massive part of grime culture back in the day! Channel U  was launched on British satellite television in 2003, which was dedicated to playing grime and UK hip-hop. It was home to early music videos by future stars such as Tinchy Stryder, Wretch 32, and many more.

Police Criminalising Grime

Although grime was becoming popular, the UK music industry has a way of repressing  Black talent and conveying the expressions of Black grime musicians as negative. The police created the 696 Form which blocked grime and hip-hop events. In 2006, the police put forward the ‘Promotion Events Risk Assessment Form 696’ to target “violence at live events”. However, this negatively affected the scene by blocking many grime and hip-hop events.

Despite the 696 Form, grime has been an unstoppable genre which artists and fans have  kept going, producing, and supporting. As a result, the genre has received international recognition! 

Can you believe Skepta and Diddy collaborating on a grime track? Well it happened, the two collaborated on a grime remix of Skepta’s  single ‘Hello, Good Morning’.

Wretch 32 also went on to win a BET Award in 2012 for ‘Best International Act’, proving that grime was beginning to make its mark on the global stage.

Thankfully, due to campaigns by Sadiq Khan and many people in the music industry, the 696 Form has been scrapped.

Today, grime is everywhere. The music genre has surpassed its pirate radio days and has now found its way into charts across the world, attracting critical acclaim for its stark social commentary on living in inner-city London, opening listeners’ eyes to the stark realities of growing up on a London estate and the intimacies of relationships, friends, and family life. Today we have the likes of AJ Tracey, Dave, and Central Cee all contributing to the legendary music genre globally. 

From the origins of the scene to today, we need to give the grime originators their well deserved accolades!

Here is an interesting list of 7 Famous Grime Music Artists and facts about how they influenced the genre!

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