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The Salute History of UK Grime

An Outsider’s Perspective

Being an American, I wasn’t really exposed to the sound of the UK born, Hip-Hop sub-genre that is Grime until the early 2000s, after discovering that a certain Roc Nation co-founder was looking to sign a small chick from London with an enormous sound.

Lady Sovereign was a hit across the pond. Her words were so fast and fluid, even some of the top MCs of our time couldn’t keep up. In 2005, SOV became the first non-American female ever to sign with Def Jam Recordings, after then-President Jay-Z heard her freestyle on-the-spot.

Her first album, Public Warning, was released in 2006 and her single “Love Me Or Hate Me,” became the first video from an English artist to reach no. 1 on MTV’s Total Request Live.

It was around that same time when I first saw an MTV News segment all about how the influence of Hip-Hop spread to other cultures. Watching this program that one afternoon, after school, exposed me to just a sample of what grime originators such as, Lethal Bizzle, Dizzee Rascal and Ms. Dynamite were capable of.

But, perhaps what really sold me on the whole grime sound was when the news segment began to talk about a pirate radio station that was quickly becoming popular amongst youths in the central, east and south London area. Rinse FM has since gone on to become a legitimate operation when it was given its broadcast license in 2010, but it first began as an underground radio station for early UK electronic music in 1994.

Producers Pivot To Dubstep

Before long, I started to see the sound evolve into a much more produced, in your face electronic sub-genre, that we now know as dubstep. Suddenly, you saw producers shift gears, while still applying the same techniques, sans the lyrics.

Several noteworthy producers would make the leap to dubstep, including: Benga, Caspa, Doctor P, Skream, Sir Spyro, Plastician, DJ Slimzee and DJ Hatcha, to name a few. They all chose to pivot… not unlike how Skrillex went from being part of a joyless emo-rock outfit to gain notoriety as the poster-child for EDM.

By 2009, I already started to see many American producers incorporating UK grime techniques into electronic/pop dance beats. Among them was Duck Sauce co-founder, Armand Van Helden, who joined forces with one of the biggest names in UK grime, Dizzee Rascal, on his best-selling single, “Bonkers.”

Chase & Status were one of the first producers I can recall, who helped bridge the gap between underground UK Hip-Hop and the rapidly growing electronic dance craze.

Before climbing to the top of the UK Dance Charts in 2007-2009, the duo got their start by collaborating on grime beats for artists such as Kano, Wiley, Dizzee Rascal, Tempa T and Tinie Tempah to name a few.

The Rebirth

While many of us in the states were swept up in dubstep fever, the UK grime collective, Boy Better Know, had just taken off with their debut single, “Too Many Men.”

BBK was created in 2005, when brothers Jamie and Joseph Adenuga (better known as BBK co-founders “JME” and “Skepta” respectively) joined forces with a close friend, David Shlogger, to start their own independent record label.

It wasn’t until 2010, as Boy Better Know rose to popularity abroad when I heard Skepta. The BBK co-founder was unlike so many of the other grime rappers that came before.

His lyrics cut sharp, and his flow was fluid, not unlike the Hip-Hop greats of our time. That’s why it came as no surprise to me that his fourth studio album, Konnichiwa, went on to receive the 2016 Mercury Prize.

The internet also played a big role in the widespread popularity of grime. So much so that by 2016, viral rap artists, such as Lady Leshurr and J Hus, began to gain notoriety for their EPs and mixtapes, including Leshurr’s six-part EP “The Queen’s Speech” which received critical acclaim from music critics on both sides of the globe.  

Now, it’s 2017 and another bloke by the name of Stormzy has taken the throne. His debut album, Gang Signs & Prayers, was released in February and already it’s breaking records, becoming the first grime album to reach number one on the UK album charts.

Considering the international popularity of the album, it is not unreasonable to think that Stormzy could be the first grime artist in history to be a contender for next year’s GRAMMY Awards. We at Salute acknowledge and express our support for all types of music… be it grime, hip-hop, electronic, indie, alternative, dance, R&B, country, folk or whatever.


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