Wednesday, 24 September 2014


Grime's embarrassing isn't it. I'm tired of watching the big names in the scene sell their soul for promotion or a pay day. News recently emerged that for the first time there will be a stand alone 'Best Grime' category at this years MOBO (Music of Black Origin) award ceremony which will take place on the 22nd of October, and despite years of protest from the scene, they're all jumping back on board the MOBO bandwagon.

Grime and the MOBOs have always had a strained relationship. For years grime wasn't recognised at all, and despite being a credible underground music genre within the UK urban scene it was cast out. In 2010, after years of protest and dismay from the grime scene the MOBOs opened up their 'Best Hip Hop' award to house grime and renamed it 'Best Hip Hop/Grime.' Naturally, they still favoured their mainstream pop artists as Plan B and Tinie Tempah have took the awards every year since. Plan B won their 'Best Hip Hop/Grime' award for his work in 2012, the year he released The Defamation of Strickland Banks. Let that sink in. Their half arsed attempt at shushing the ever growing grime scenes cries and protests were extremely thinly veiled and this didn't go unnoticed.

So how did they combat it? In 2012 they invited Wiley and Skepta, two veterans of the grime scene (rich in support from their fans and counterparts) to perform their summer pop hit 'Can You Hear Me - Ayaya' live on stage. They performed the song. Fun, popular music but by no stretch grime music. This kept everyone quiet for a little while. After all; if Wiley and Skeps are performing at the MOBOs surely they're taking grime seriously.

It's not only the grime scene that has took time to question the MOBOs integrity and undoubtable commercialisation over the years. Not only is the concept in itself largely racist and uninformed (critic Niall Crowley highlights the inherent inaccuracies in the term "black music", noting the significant Jewish influences on rhythm and blues and rock n roll) they are constantly blurring lines and awarding awards to artist who do not perform music within their categories of nomination. Wiley and Skepta went and performed what is effectively a 4-to-the-floor house-esque pop song with clear influence from the Eastern European dance music scene. How many black Russians have you ever met?

Throwing a best male MOBO at grimes self proclaimed 'Godfather' Wiley in 2013 didn't do much to distract the fact grime was still not being taken seriously. Although, out of respect nobody within the scene would ever chime up, grime fans are coming to terms that we've ultimately lost Wiley. This is nothing new. After an onslaught of dreadful clubby pop songs by a Wiley desperately jealous of Dizzee Rascals fame, real time old grime fans know that the only connection Wiley has left with the grime scene is one of nostalgia. A thing of the past. Watching goals on YouTube from a striker that left your club years ago for La Ligas fortune. The scene grew restless again and expressed in no uncertain terms that they were unhappy with how they were being treated at the MOBOs.

Fast forward to 2014. Merdian Dan storms the charts with German Whip reaching #13. Huge support from the whole scene backed the single with a massive pre release campaign encouraging fans new and old to pre order on itunes. And it worked. The original and a glossier, reshot video combine to collect way over 6 million YouTube views and Grime charted for the first time since the original 'Pow' by Lethal B back in 2004. A victory for grime music right?

Wrong. Listen to the single. Veteran grime fans will tell you this isn't grime. It doesn't even really sound like grime. It's a trap single with what was once a grime MC vocalling it. Sure, it's at grime tempo and JME and Big H (two old time Meridan crew members) feature but this music is simply not grime music. For good or bad, that is not the point. This was not grime music charting and being accepted by the massive. A largely American influenced song being Radio 1 playlisted and receiving daytime plays isn't a success for grime music, regardless of who is on it. When Grime MCs take to other genres it has always been well received by the mainstream. If we are celebrating German Whip as a win, why not celebrate Dizzee Rascal and Calvin Harris's 2009 smash hit 'Holiday' too?

The sad thing is through all of this there was a resurrected sense of empowerment and community in the grime scene. One of the scenes most powerful figures decided to take it back to basics. Skepta's 'That's Not Me' excited me in ways the scene hadn't for years. It was a throwback. A love letter to the good old days. Skepta shown everyone in the scene that if someone as powerful and well known as he is can make real, authentic grime, with all it's imperfections and eccentricities, then you can too. We've got their ear now, let's use it to show them our sound. The original 'street version' video (embedded) and the studio version videos combined to around 1.5 million views. Obviously still a large number, but not by Skepta's previous standards. That's Not Me debuted at #21 and quickly faded into the history books. This was the real success for actual, authentic grime music, but went largely unsung after a huge campaign for German Whip. Skepta doing what he does again. Things resumed as normal on Monday.

So what does the grime scene do after Skepta's courageous step back in time? Continue to fall in line and speak when spoken to. 1xtra invite their usual 'grime' friends P Money and Ghetts, to take part in Charlie Sloth's Fire In The Booth cypher with a bunch of other UK MCs from various scenes. They spit over more American beats just happy for the publicity and the payday. SBTV put out a remix of a trap tune at around 140bpm with a host of all stars from the grime scene guesting, Skepta included. The words 'All Star remix' used to hold some sense of integrity, now they are simply a pathway for finding out which members of the grime scene have sold their souls this week. It's clearly not just me who thinks this.

And so news broke today that the MOBOs have finally awarded grime their own award. Big Narstie, Ghetts, JME, Lethal Bizzle, Meridian Dan, Skepta and Wiley are all amongst the nominees. This is being paraded around like a huge success and a victory for the grime scene. At long last the MOBOs are taking our scene seriously, and all the old voices that used to berate and discredit the MOBOs are back onboard, of course supporting the scene they love and hold so dearly.

It's tiring following a scene so fickle, frankly. Happy to completely sell out for a payday. Happy to compromise exactly what grime is about for a posh night out at an award ceremony. For me, grime is a huge part of my identity and everything I stand for. It's my own punk rock. An acquired taste that never cared much for what outsiders thought. I'll proudly wear it like a badge but the thing I love more than anything on earth is being watered down constantly. Killed from the inside, out. I've been to see live music of all genres all over the country my whole life. Few moments compare to D Double E of the Newham Generals spitting his Birds In The Sky lyrics in Niche, Sheffield 2009. A room crammed with real fans went wild. Girls were running from a dancefloor that had turned into a moshpit. This was not music for girls. Drinks everywhere, gun fingers high in the air. That's what grime is about, any real fan or supporter will tell you that. Not Wiley pissing about on a quad in Ibiza hoping that 1Xtra will play his new single.

Since Dizzee Rascal graduated and went on to super stardom it seems like that's the goal everyone has got their eyes on. Wiley, Dizzee and Roll Deep have all had number 1 chart success and gone onto huge things, so why would that not be the aim? 17 year olds in East London 10 years ago wouldn't be thinking of grime as a career, or for the money and that made for the best grime music. It's like it's ok for 1xtra to continue to water down our scene as long as they're paying, be it in promo or money.

Likewise for the MOBOs. It's took grime MCs spitting over rap and trap beats for their own personal profiles to get big enough to be warranted a category of their own. German Whip has surely been the biggest UK urban anthem of the calendar year and everyone has been tricked into thinking it's grime. The MCs nominated are not being celebrated for their contribution to grime music. Far from it, but they'll throw in a couple of promising youngers (namely Stormzy and Novelist) to throw us off the scent.

It strikes me that the vast majority of people inside the scene would rather see their friends and peers make successes of themselves than the actual grime scene and sound be pushed forward. We've seen this with the support that Dizzee Rascal, Chipmunk, Tinie Tempah, Wretch 32, Tynchy Stryder, Roll Deep and a host of other graduates from the grime scene have had. None of the above made their fame and fortune from grime music, but rather used it as a platform to go onto bigger and better things. Talk is cheap, and for a scene so dedicated to screaming about who they are and where they come from they all seem to forget all that anytime the mainstream come knocking. Mark my words, come October 22nd everyone will get dressed up for the MOBOs, Jammer will tag along and all that has gone between the MOBOs and the grime scene will be forgotten.

This could be the final nail in the coffin lid of grime music, regardless wether they still choose to throw the name around or not.

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