March 2015: Grime Update

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The best thing I can say about grime in 2015 is that it isn’t 2014 anymore, so I won’t have to read anymore “GRIME IS BACK!” articles. It was lazy to begin with, and ignores the fact that labels like Butterz and Oil Gang have been going on for 5 years at this point. Hopefully, small labels and artists can harness some momentum from whatever sort of media spotlight grime had in 2014.

Butterz is still chugging away, and after moving towards more of a garage sound, returned to grime with Footsie’s “Scars EP.” It’s old material, but hearing this in a form other than lowbit radio rips is overdue.

Maxsta is the perfect example of an artist who deserves to profit from the renewed media attention on grime. In 2009, when he was 17, he released “East London Is Back,” which blew up huge in the grime scene, but did crickets in the mainstream world.

Maxsta signed to a major label, but nothing much happened for him. Now, in 2015, it seems like he’s returned to grime and his work rate has gone through the roof, with tons of radio appearances, youtube freestyles, and videos going up in the last few months. They’re almost all fire, but so far “New MC’s” has been my favorite:

Another young MC getting a lot of attention is Novelist and his crew The Square. Novelist definitely has the highest profile in the group and has a good ear for collabos. His 2014 track with Mumdance, “Take Time” was a great linkup between the more intellectual and dark instrumental crowd (is calling this the “Boxed” scene a bad thing?) and classic grime street vibes. The two have followed up with another tune “1 Sec”, which is less wonky than “Take Time” but still mines the same 2004 throwback squarewave sound (definitely not a bad thing). The vinyl on this is coming out in March.

I would have liked to have seen Novelist when he played NYC earlier this month with Jammer, Skepta, and JME except it was a Fashion Week afterparty and no one invited me. The idea of waiting in line outside surrounded by hypebeats when it’s brick out in NYC struck me as terrible idea. At this point Jammer and Skepta have dual citizenship so they’ll be here next time someone releases a new sneaker or Supreme has an outlet sale, but it would have been cool to see Novelist.

Darq E Freaker (producer of Tempa T’s“Next Hype” and Danny Brown’s “Blueberry (Pills & Cocaine)”) also played a Fashion Week afterparty. I saw him spin a few years back at a small spot in Williamsburg and he killed it, so would have been nice to have check what he’s up to now.

Which brings up the question, what’s up with grime artists becoming Fashion Week mascots? Like yo, I like free plane tickets too, but really… Although playing for elite audiences can be a way to build up an audience among the tastemakers and trendsetters, something tells me that in regards to grime your average Fashion Week afterparty attendee has the memory span of a goldfish.

Although there is one tastemaker who recently revealed himself to be a grime fan: your boy Drake. Last week on Instagram, Drizzy posted 3 pictures of Wiley, Skepta, Frisco, and (of all people) Devilman to his 7.4 million followers, with comments like “Man like Wiley been checked for me from time. Truly one of the best to ever do it. #Legends.”

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It’s nice to see Drake throw grime a bone, but seeing Drake talk about grime is kind of like hearing my girlfriend talk about baseball: I appreciate the interest, but I’m not sure they know what they’re talking about. Still, the fact Drake is bothering to screencap random Lord Of The Mics clips means he most likely has an interest in grime that most high profile rappers before him never did.

Kanye then had to do Drake one better, and had half of grime onstage with him with him at the Brit Awards when he performed his new tune “All Day.”

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Which I guess is kinda like the performance equivalent of an Instagram shout out, since no grime artists touched a mic; they just jumped around behind Kanye, shot off flamethrowers, and shocked Lionel Ritchie.

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It seems weird to get grime artists to be, at best, an aesthetic backdrop, and at worst, goons for hire. Besides when it comes to mobbing the stage and shocking a bourgeoisie Brit Award crowd, So Solid Crew did it better back in 2002.

Perhaps this why Kanye had Skepta, JME, Novelist, and Meridian Dan perform at his surprise live show at KOKO in London at few days later: to show that he had genuine love for grime and wanted to put it on.

Regardless, the fact that grime is on the radar of the two of the biggest in the game can only bode well. As a sign of foreign interest, this probably ranks up there with Jay Z performing over the Forward Riddim. I’m not gonna start writing my “2015, THE YEAR GRIME BROKE!” thinkpiece yet, but it’s clear that grime has gotten the attention of some major players. Whether the US audience will follow remains to be seen.

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About peter

musings about music, culture, food, and more... twittering, tumbling, and instagramming: @PgunnNYC http://axchem.tumblr.com/
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