Grounded in its roots, Grime’s rise proving to be prodigious and rapid
Grime, as a genre, has come a long way since it burst out of Britain way back when. We’re at a point now where the most decisive market, the United States of America, is glued in. Co-signs from Drake tend to help quicken the process, but don’t think it’s just a trend, in fact the takeover has just begun.
A little over a month removed from Skepta and Grime’s top talent shutting down a 10,500 standing crowd at Alexandra Palace in North London, there has never been a better time to be invested in the growing genre.
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This modern rise of Grime to North America can be grounded to distinct moments of simplicity. Already booming in Great Britain, Skepta, as told in his Apple Music exclusive Greatness Only documentary, took to the streets of New York, putting his work out wherever possible. One of those moments specifically was 16 months ago, when Skepta was stood at the intersection of Houston Street and Broadway in New York, handing out a Tim Westwood remixed edition of some of his singles.
Fast forward to that summer and we found Skepta tearing up an summer, performing at intimate venues such as MoMA PS1 to spread his genre, while also garnering big name attention when performing at Drake’s OVO fest with some of hip-hop’s top talent.
Heading back home, the idea of simplicity in his promotion continued. Relatable marketing schemes, such as the street promotion of his Alexandra Palace show, or grainy visuals for hit singles such as It Ain’t Safe or Man make the relatability of the genre truly come alive within the scope of British culture, while propelling artists within it to stardom.
Skepta’s attempts to take the genre across the ocean paid off significantly. His widespread marketability and relative ominousness propelled him to mythic level in North America, leading to a deal with Apple Music.
Broadcasting that historic Alexandra Palace show to the masses while documenting his rise as an artist through his Greatness Only documentary, the lauded brand has been a large contributor to Skepta’s individual rise to prominence in the industry.
It’s not just Apple Music who have taken to Skepta, though. VICE’s music coverage through Noisey played an initial part in the London artist’s rise across North America. Documenting his Boy Better Know (BBK) accompanied tour in the summer of 2015 in a program called Top Boy, the hysteria surrounding Skepta and Britain’s unique sound arose and personality, widening the audience for Grime across North America.
Honing in his roots, the idea of modern hip-hop in America was quashed, instead prompting past ideologies regarding “mandem” culture — a concept that has boded well for the aspiring genre.
The cementing of Skepta and Grime’s arrival on North America is found in the music itself too. On Konnichiwa we saw features from Young Lord (A$AP Bari) and A$AP Nast, two members of one of the largest hip-hop contingents in the industry while esteemed producer and artist Pharrell Williams contributed vocals. The summer of 2015 saw fellow Apple Music signee Drake team up with Skepta for a remix of Wizkid’s Ojuelegba, which premiered on OVO Sound Radio. Section Boyz then brought out Drake during a show in London, prior to Drake tattooing the BBK logo on his shoulder, announcing his signature to the growing label.
Despite Skepta’s remarkable growth as an artist, he hasn’t forgotten about the genre. From a whole host of collaborations from Novelist, Wiley, Chip, JME and BBK on Konnichiwa to collaborating with Section Boyz on #Worst, Skepta also proved monumental during that aforementioned Alexandra Palace show where he put Grime on full display, bringing out names such as JME, Giggs, Kano, Avelino, Wretch 32, D Double E, Shorty, Jammer, Lethal Bizzle, Abracadabra, Section Boyz, Novelist, DJ Semtex, Rejjie Snow. The rise of the genre, though, reached a point of self actualization when Skepta lifted the Mercury Prize, an award given to the best album in Great Britain and Ireland in a calendar, legitimizing the impact of Grime.
The popularity has gotten to a point where it has gotten its on awards show as well: The Rated Awards.
Continuing that widespread impact, Grime is set to takeover one of America’s biggest festivals, Coachella, as Stormzy will be performing at the iconic event come this April.
Grime is still largely British, which is a good thing — it is staying true to its creative roots. Though not set to overtake obvious monumental stronghold hip-hop has in the United States any time soon, the genre is solidifying itself as Britain’s musical identity across new markets. Skepta’s display of Grime’s widespread talent at Alexandra Palace was the pinnacle of achievement, putting everything the genre has to offer on display for the most part. From hereon, the commercialization of the genre will begin, but if Grime can resist falling into that trap, we’re only hitting the tip of the iceberg.