Culture > From Skepta to Drake: the journey of grime music as it finally breaks US

Posted on August 13, 2015


Dante West on trends from the ends – the life and grimes of London's underground music scene

Grime is on the rise. Artists are producing hit after hit, selling out shows and collaborating with some of the biggest names in music. But why did it take so long for the genre to finally break through?

Born on the streets of the deprived areas of London, grime music evolved from the garage era in the early 2000s, led primarily by East London MC Wiley. The culture quickly grew and crews such as Roll Deep, More Fire Crew, Ruff Sqwad and Meridian Crew (who would then split into Boy Better Know and Bloodlines) were among the most known.

Publicised through pirate radio stations such as Rinse FM, Déjà Vu FM, and Freeze 92.7, grime music would begin to take centre stage around the capital.

As the millennium came and went grime started to make it from the roads and into the mainstream. And by the mid 2000s three albums stood out, receiving critical acclaim both inside the grime scene and out: Dizzee Rascal dropped Boy in da Corner 2003, Wiley released Treddin’ On Thin Ice in 2004 and Kano delivered Home Sweet Home in 2005.

A marker had been set. Along with the album successes and the growing popularity the grime scene would further expand. Jammer, a member of Neckle Camp and Boy Better Know, founded Lord Of The Mics, an event devoted entirely to grime, where MCs would perform, clash and embrace grime culture. LOTM would then become the focal point for the fast expanding scene, featuring some classic clashes, such as Kano v Wiley, Crazy Titch v Bruza and Skepta v Devilman.


During the late 00s Dubstep would gain mainstream status, at the expense of grime, which fell back into the underground. Many grime MCs turned to the pop genre; Wiley began this trend with Wearing My Rolex, which became popular in clubs and raves. Other artists soon followed with Skepta and Dizzee Rascal releasing Sunglasses At Night and Dance Wiv Me respectively.

It is only in recent years that grime legitimately, rather than fleetingly, gained its mainstream status with artists enjoying success in the UK charts. Another MC, Meridian Dan, charted at number 13 with German Whip, Skepta at 21 with That’s Not Me and Lethal Bizzle peaking at number 11 with Rari Workout.

Alongside the chart successes grime has gained support from global hip-hop artists in America. Drake has made no secret of his newfound love for all things UK, including an admiration for grime music and the ‘Grime Godfather’ Wiley. Drake even brought out Skepta during his set at this year’s Wireless festival in Finsbury Park. However that wasn’t the most notable moment in the grime calendar.

During the late 00s Dubstep would gain mainstream status, at the expense of grime, which fell backwards to the underground

The ever controversial Kanye West’s performance at this years Brits involved him being on stage with a massive entourage of grime artists, the performance itself prompted 126 OFCOM complaints, one of which Skepta would go on to satirise in his huge single Shutdown to show the lighter, more humorous side of grime.

Some people believe grime was brought to the world’s eyes due to Kanye’s generosity, South London artist Stormzy, who was on stage with Kanye disagrees. “Grime doesn’t need a co-sign. It was sick before Kanye West, it’ll be sick after Kanye West. It’d be sick if Kanye West had turned around and said he hated grime,” Stormzy said, in an interview with Crack Magazine.


Skepta welcomes the newfound love for grime from the States, and even found time to record his song It Ain’t Safe which features Young Lord from American rap group A.$.A.P Mob. He encourages other UK artists to make music with American artists.

“What me and Young Lord did, I want that to be a start of something new. I want much more people to connect in different ways. I want JME and Eminem to make a song together,” he said, in an interview with New York based magazine Pigeons and Planes.

It’s a long time since grime rose from the ashes of garage music, and it’s now enjoying the recognition it deserves. The support from some of the biggest names in the music industry goes to show how far it has come from the depths of the underground. With artists such as JME, Krept & Konan, Wiley and Skepta all at the peak of their powers, along with exciting new talent such as Stormzy and Novelist bursting onto the scene, exciting times lie ahead for the grime world.

Dante West


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