Is it good that Grime keeps me young?
Growing up in Hackney, I was front row to the creation of a genre that has captivated a generation. In the days of Young Man Standing and Stratford Rex, Grime was a way for talented artists to use computer programming and microphones to vent their frustrations of the world they lived in. I related to this because my friends and I were dealing with the same things. Personally, having this music was somewhat therapeutic. Being able to listen to an artist like Ghetts speak about the madness on the roads validated what was happening in my estate.
Now that I think about it, that’s a bit strange. I knew man who shot food, did stick ups and stayed in beef. But the stories they brought back to the block were often embellished and did not reflect the real struggle they would experience. But when I listened to CPB from the Ghetto Gospel album, I would gain a better understanding through the intricate flows that Ghetts would spray.
Yes, I was also attracted to the violent references that were prevalent in lyrics of some Grime songs because it was similar to my surroundings. I would get hype for the few minutes of the track and at the end, feel relieved that I was able to deplete the capsule of energy I had inside of me.
Fast forward 10 years or so and I’m still an active participant of the Grime scene. Frequently listening to radio sets and going to shows. The difference is, I’ve grown up. I no longer live in the hood. Some of the mandem I knew from the block doing a madness are either locked up or dead and the bars that I hear Grime are often nostalgic and are no longer a reflection of my environment.
But the spirit is still there and it does a good job of keeping me busy. New MCs and producers are making waves, artists are being seen in the charts and shows are never too far away. It makes me happy to jump in the middle of a crowd when an MC sprays a reload bar. I was recently losing my mind at a D Double E show as he performed songs from my younger days. New music and videos keep me intrigued and with international eyes on us, it’s a very interesting time for Grime music.
The things is, as a fan, I need something different. If you asked me who my favourite rapper is, I’d probably say Nas. A big reason for this is the varied subjects that he touches on. His music has grown with him. On his last album, Life Is Good, he has a song about the issue he deals with raising his daughter and the demise of his marriage. He can’t fill an album about standing on the block anymore, because he doesn’t. Yes, making songs that speak on experiences will be heard, but for the majority, that’s old news.
During my talk with Elijah (Butterz) for my Focal Point podcast, I said that I wanted to hear a project created by an artist that is going through college or university. Songs with a hard bassline and an MC speaking on the struggles of studying for a dissertation and dealing with idiot roommates all whilst trying to form relationships would be a sick mixtape. It would make a big difference from the frequent narrative from the roads. To be honest, in 2017, the biggest markets for Grime music have never visited a council estate or are even from inner city London. With the scene steady evolving and attracting people from all over the country, it’s not weird for me to be the minority when I go to a Grime show.
So I’m guilty of over-protection
I feel like the wealthiest man
Now, I ain’t my only reflection
I see me in my daughter — Ghetts, Fatherhood
Other stories need to be told and to be fair, there are MCs that are doing a great job. Whether it be Jammz with his hard hitting social commentary (It’s a London Thing), P Money touching on issues with his father (Intro) or when Ghetts speaks about his feelings when introduced a new life (Fatherhood), some MCs are drawing from the growth they have lived through and documenting it in their music. I think this is very important as it speaks more to things that are relatable by more people. Especially as those same fans of the music grow up and their priorities change. Where are the MCs that are speaking about the financial effects of the budget and the experiences in relationships that has lasted years? How about the struggles of the music industry or dealing with a broken heart? There are so many different topics that can be brought forward through music by artists that are undoubtedly being effected by scenarios like these. So why don’t I hear them in Grime music more? I fully understand that braggadocios tracks for the most part are the name of the game. But what about everything else?
I grew up in the ends but I didn’t directly partake the things that one would expect to here in a Grime song. I was the dude that was attracted to the fast life but ultimately was deterred by the realisation of my friends being locked up or killed. So, I followed the advice of my parents and went into further education. I was still in the ends so I wasn’t too far removed from the road life, but my experience was vicarious.
That is what the arts allow us to do. It enables us to peek inside the world that others live in. Whether it be a novel, a film or a song. It’s the artist that conveys a message that allows the recipient to briefly understand another reality. I just feel that there needs to be more of a balance. I don’t want to be in my late 30s listening to an artist of similar age talking about taking mans girl and spinning his jaw. Now, that might be happening, I just don’t really wanna hear it too often. I wanna here tracks about family parties, starting new businesses and relationships.
“I love to make love. I love it when you wear them things that I like and they slide down your thighs, everything seems alright” — Kano, Brown Eyes
Remember Brown Eyes? Kano used his lyrical ability to speak about someone that he has affection for. When was the last song you heard a song like that in the last 5 years in the Grime scene? No doubt there are some, but I can’t understand why there aren’t more songs where artists profess their feelings on a sick instrumental. I previously wrote about Girls Around The World and found myself asking the same questions. Are MCs not having relationships anymore? If they are, why aren’t they making songs about it? It was so refreshing to hear Only You performed by C Cane on SBTV A64 series as it proves that fast paced lyrics about love would be welcomed by Grime fans.
Oscar Wilde wrote that “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life”. If this is the case then I request from the scene that I love to be more varied in its topics. If you listen to Kano’s Made In The Manor, you will hear the distance between that and Home Sweet Home. We gain an insight into where Kano is at this stage of his life that shows evolution and new problems that can be encountered when someone grows up. It may not have been the hard hitting Grime album that we wanted but for me, it was the right type of album to release. I just hope that more artists decide to speak on things that more of the audience can identify with. I understand that this is a selfish request and artist are free to do whatever they want. But I thought it was worth my time to ask.