Grime is in vogue. There’s been a frenzy of articles about the supposed ‘resurgence’ of grime over the past couple of months in the media: VICE’s musical division Noisey devoted an entire week to all things grime; Channel 4 hosted an episode of Dazed’s series Music Nation, showcasing a rundown of the genre’s history; and every ‘music blogger’ seems to have an opinion on the subject, saying that they’ve totally loved grime since day. Grime hasn’t always enjoyed such widespread acclaim. Yes, a couple grime tracks have charted in the UK with some albums receiving good reviews, but the majority of its material remains in relative obscurity. A bunch of kids from Tower Hamlets in tracksuits and hoods shouting for a reload isn’t going to appeal to a lot of listeners.
A lot of people have dubbed this recent resurgence of grime as a ‘revival’. Yet grime has been anything but dead. Attributing grime’s renewed popularity to “That’s Not Me” does a massive disservice to the artists, producers, MCs and promoters that have been championing the genre even when it faded from the popular music consciousness. 2014 was undoubtedly a strong year for the likes of BBK and their protégés. But excellent tracks such as Flowdan’s ‘Serious Business’ EP preceded their surge in popularity. Grime-focused nights and raves – Sidewinder, Eskimo Dance, FWD>>, Butterz at the now defunct Cable – have enjoyed consistent success throughout the years, while pirate radio has played a key role in proliferating grime when more commercial (and legal) stations would hesitate to devote airtime to it.
But why this recent explosion in popularity amongst young people and the mainstream media? It seems that the perception of grime seems to be slowly changing. Rather than filter itself through other chart-friendly genres, grime is beginning to be accepted on its own sonic terms. Recent grime tracks, then, have been able to retain and celebrate the genre’s DNA instead of moulding themselves into pop heavy hit like Wiley’s ‘Heatwave’.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what ‘grime’ is though. Although it’s still in relative infancy, its aesthetic is one that has changed and been explored in a number of different directions. I think a lot of original grime heads might find this a troubling notion, having cut their teeth on the clashes and live sets of the early years, an atmosphere that likely won’t be replicated now. But it’s easy to get carried away with a sense of musical nostalgia that’s damaging to the growth and evolution of a genre. With a fanbase as dedicated as grime’s, there’s a tendency to latch onto the idea of a ‘golden era’ that’s faded into memory a while back now. It’s unlikely that grime will ever have that level of raw anger and conviction (check out the some of the clashes from while back and you can see how the room bristles with energy even through grainy camcorder footage) but that doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate or even acknowledge the present.
Grime acts are increasingly getting booked for bigger and higher profile nights, events and festivals, reaching a far wider audience than ever before. The Red Bull Culture Clash, for example, put some of grime’s figureheads on the same stage as the immensely popular A$AP Mob. The internet has proved to be crucial in both the continuation and commemoration of the genre, giving grime a platform to develop upon but also an archive for older material that might otherwise have been lost in a pile of old marker-penned cassette tapes and dubplates. The instrumental tracks released from labels like Oil Gang and Glacial Sound is a really interesting direction for the genre as well, reappropriating the ‘eski’ sound into its own niche. Novelist and The Square are spearheading a generation of MCs that grew up on grime and whilst they might not have the presence or experience to compete with veterans of the genre, they represent a demographic of younger listeners that aren’t much older than grime itself.
Grime is alive whether or not you agree with the direction that it’s heading. There seems to be a great deal of disillusionment with the fact that it probably won’t be anything like what it was back in the day, but there needs to be an acceptance that the genre is going to evolve and adapt to a new generation of listeners. Besides, some of grime’s originators are pushing 40 now – there might soon be a time where they’ll have to pass over the mic to a whole host of younger and rising talents, voluntarily or involuntarily. Grime’s new wave is gathering momentum.