Let's Talk Grime: The British Take on Rap

Design by Brittany Isdith Born out of England in the early 2000s, grime music is taking the stage stateside.

Grime music is on a similar path to how hip-hop emerged out of the 70s with its messages of consciousness and party-rocking. In an article from Hattie Collins via Noisey she says, “grime is the last true DIY British subculture of its time." The grime sound is angry, loud, provocative and unapologetic. Recognized by its fast beats, punk rhythms, hip-hop and fast-rapping lyricists, grime can be a little overwhelming at first. Since most U.S. listeners aren’t accustomed to the accents of British rappers, there might be an initial barrier when trying to get into the music. But that shouldn’t stop you from checking out the most slept on sound. Emerging in post 9/11 Britain, when funds for local youth services were cut, British youth took it upon themselves to create a new sound and culture. Thanks to the Internet, emerging talent spread their projects and made their way onto the airwaves of pirate-radio stations.

“Shutdown.” You’ve probably heard this phrase from one of your friends who either a) watches too much British MTV or b) is a huge Skepta fan. For those who don’t know, Skepta is one of the biggest grime stars out right now. Hailing from Tottenham, London, England, the MC has been in the game a long time, and he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves. With hits like “Shutdown” and “It Ain't Safe,” Skepta is making his presence known here in the states. In addition to those hits, he has some big name fans likes Drake, who signed Skepta to his label Boy Better Know (BBK) with a co-sign from Mr. Kanye West. To learn more about the early days of Skepta’s career and bringing grime sound to the forefront, check out the cover story article from the June/July 2015 issue of the Fader.

Another British MC having a moment is Stormzy. Coming from South London the 22-year old MC is making a name for himself as well, with hits like “Shut Up” and “Know Me From,” with the latter featuring his mother. His latest album Dreamers Disease came out in 2014 and is available on iTunes currently. When he’s not in the studio, he’s giving lectures at Oxford University... not a bad place to be considering Kanye West, the Dalai Lama, and Stephen Hawking were previous speakers.

In his Fader interview, Skepta speaks on the differences between American rap and UK grime. “We all make different types of music, but it’s all born from poverty... it’s all born from pain,” Skepta said. There are MCs from London, to Manchester, to Essex and beyond, and they all have a unique, distinctive sound. Only one truth remains.

It’s always grime.