Its name makes it sound dingy, but in reality the blend of EDM and hip-hop called grime is anything but.
For the first installment of our new Subgenre section, we take a quick look at the grime scene, which has been a major part of the British electronic underground for 15 years but has only recently started to make big waves in the mainstream.
Here are two of today’s top grime MCs, Skepta and JME, squaring off in a 2016 freestyle battle on the BBC’s Radio 1. It’s a pretty short clip, but you get the idea quickly: This style is oriented around speed and frenetic energy, with both the beats and the rapping generating a real feeling of urgency.
The artist who’s most closely associated with grime is Dylan Mills, better known to the world as Dizzee Rascal. This dynamic performance of “Brand New Day,” from his 2003 debut album Boy in da Corner, took place the following year in New York. During the second verse, Dizzee gets slightly out of sync with the backing track and orders for it to be turned off. From that point on, he raps a cappella, with the audience providing all the extra rhythm he needs.
Arguably the first example of grime was the 2002 album Original Pirate Material by the Streets, a.k.a. rapper/producer Mike Skinner. It’s since become regarded as something of a classic, and so it makes sense in a way that Skinner would eventually perform its songs with the sort of group one tends to associate with the classics: an orchestra! This is the album’s opening track, “Turn the Page,” from a concert at London’s Roundhouse with the Heritage Orchestra. It’s a little more relaxed-sounding than the other clips here, but it shares the same sense of momentum.
Finally, we love Lady Leshurr’s whole series of freestyle grime videos called The Queen’s Speech, but Episode 4 (below) is probably our favorite. Don’t forget to brush your teeth—the Queen demands it!