5 Grime Artists Any Hip-Hop Head Would Love To Mess With
Even in its home city of London, Grime is a bit of an oddity. No other musical genre is more polarizing and isolating than this specific brand of pseudo-hip hop. Even referring to it as hip-hop or rap is misleading as it is both of these things while at the same time managing to be neither. On a first listen, Grime sounds like a U.K. version of American rap. Sure, the slang is a little different and harder to understand and the beat and drops are slightly more eclectic, but they’re the same thing… right?
Grime emerged from the rave culture of the late nineteen-nineties. It was born in east London, lives in East London and really only makes sense to those from East London. It’s a genre blend of drum’n’bass, U.K. garage, jungle and even ragga. It’s a genre where the MC has pushed their DJ counter-part to the side, distilled the polyrhythms of drum’n’bass to its most minimalistic sound and used that backing as a sample to rap and rhyme over.
The lyrics are odd too, at least for those who aren’t on the scene. To any foreigner listening, they will have a hard time breaking down the verbal onslaught of slang that makes Grime what it is. And even if they do manage to grasp these lyrics, unless they are from East London, and have experienced the specific life and culture that the songs are referencing, than chances are they aren’t going to understand or appreciate it.
It’s because of these oddities that Grime never took off outside of London. Heck, it never even took off outside of East London. The odd names like Skepta or Dizzie Rascal might mean something to the semi-initiated, but apart from that, Grime is an alien form of music that seems content to avoid the spotlight and live in the darkness. Well that’s how it was anyway.
There has been a renewed interest in Grime over the past three years. Why this is, isn’t really known. A lot of it might have to do with changing influences. Modern day Grime artists have begun to become influenced by American trap music — raw beats more akin to dance music than the harsh, dark sound that Grime used to carry. Others will tell you that the internet is playing a huge part and where Grime used to rely on pirate radio to be heard, now it can be download by 10 million users across the globe in a matter of seconds. But as Footise – one of the preliminary Grime artists of today -will tell you, Grime is more popular now because there are more artists out there making better music than ever before. Simple as that.
With that being said, here are five Grime artists on the forefront of the scene that an hip-hop fan would be mad to not want a piece of right now.
It would be hard to make a list of Grime artists and not include Dizzie on it. He is, without a doubt, the most well-known Grime artist in the world and has done what most spend a lifetime failing to do — break out of East London. His first album, Boy in da Corner, is to Grime what Doggystyle was to West Coast Rap and it’s his ability to produce songs within the genre that can also be consumed by the masses that’s responsible for his enduring popularity.
When he released Tongue n’Cheek some argued that he was stepping away from his Grime roots with the aim of pleasing a more mainstream base. But anyone who has listened to his new album Raskit, will see that this claim couldn’t be further from the truth. Just give “Space,” a sample, listen to his insane flow and lyricism and you will see that he is still the best Grime artist out there.
Wiley makes the list for his longevity. He’s known as the Godfather of Grime by anyone that is even slightly aware of the genre and there’s a reason for that. He literally invented the damn thing. “Eskimo” was the first pure Grime song ever recorded and is still considered by most as the best Grime song ever recorded. Although it’s pure, undistilled Grime and a little hard to digest for those that aren’t fans of the genre, go and give it a listen and see what I’m talking about. That is how Grime should sound.
But even outside of this, he makes the list because he keeps putting out bangers. It’s his Trindade blood that gives his music a dancehall feel and makes it that little more accessible to the masses and it’s his ability to adapt and evolve with the audience that keeps him at the forefront. On top of all of this, he’s also a pretty decent MC and can spin with the best of them.
Outside of Dizzie Rascal, Skepta probably has the most street cred and easily the most recognizable sound and name. It’s because he doesn’t let himself get bogged down by the old garage Grime sound that he’s right at the spearhead of the Grime revival. He isn’t afraid to mix in R’n’B, pop and electro beats to his songs, while dropping lyrics that speak to a wider range of listeners than just those living in East London.
If you want proof of his popularity, look to his most recent release Konnichiwa. It only just missed out on the top spot in the charts to Radiohead and has even been endorsed by the likes of Drake and A$AP Rocky. It’s proof that people outside of the scene are starting to take notice and listen and a lot of that is due to artists like Skepta.
Like Wiley, Kano has been in the Grime scene since its inception. And like Wiley, he helped build it up to what it was, and has helped push it forward to what it is now. His song “P’s and Q’s“ is ranked alongside “Eskimo,” as one of the more influential Grime songs of all time, but unlike “Eskimo,” it’s seen as a significant push forward in the Grime genre. Where “Eskimo,” might be a little rough for those on the outside, “P’s and Q’s,” has a simple melodic flow and lyrics that are far easier to wrap ones head around than most Grime songs. That means it can be appreciated by any hip-hop aficionado.
It’s this level of lyricism that Kano keeps bringing with every new release, that puts him on this list. His most recent release Made in the Manner, was given a nod from the Mercury Prize Panel which is a huge deal when considering where Grime came from and how it used to be viewed. This above anything else should be an indication of Kano’s talents as a rapper, MC and musician in general. Grime would not be where it is today without him and as it grows, develops and pushes boundaries, Kano will be right there with it.
If there is a Queen of Grime, than Lady Leshurr would be it. She makes the list for two reasons. The first is her sound. Unlike a lot of grime artists, Lady Lesshur isn’t afraid to broadcast her roots. She is unapologetically influenced by U.S hip-hop and if it wasn’t for her accent, one might even confuse her with the likes of Azealia Banks or Nicki Minaj. She also isn’t from London, but Birmingham, which gives her Grime brand a uniqueness that you don’t find in those that grew up on the East Streets.
The second reason is her expert lyricism. Of all the artists on this list, she is quite possibly the most gifted freestyler, and anyone that has heard her Queen Speech series will agree with this. Her “Queen’s Speech 5,” was even called the ‘crowning freestyle of 2015’ by Spin magazine.
If all of this isn’t enough to convince you that Lady Leshurr will be the next big thing in Grime, take her sold out shows in L.A, New Orleans, Miami and New York as further examples. Or better yet, look to her upcoming LP which she is working on with Deputy — the producer responsible for Rhianna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money.” And (just to really hammer the point home) consider the fact that she is also working on this LP with none other than hit making machine, Timberland. In short, keep Lady Leshurr on your radar.