British royalty honored a hip-hop pioneer today. Wiley, otherwise known as the ‘Grandfather’ of UK Grime, was awarded with the MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) from the Duke of Cambridge, becoming the first major influencer of the culture to be recognized by the crown.
By the mid-to-late ‘90s, hip-hop music already started to gain international attention, thanks to American rappers such as the Wu Tang Clan, 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Nas, Jay-Z, and others who went on to become global phenomenons. British “grime” also played a major role in popularizing dance music in the early 2000s, paving the way for pioneers of garage, drum ‘n’ bass, dubstep and EDM, while maintaining its root, as an extension of hip-hop culture.
But you shouldn’t just take my word for it… just ask “The Godfather” of UK Grime.
Wiley was majorly influential in the creation of the British subgenre, which really didn’t start to take off until after he had already landed a Top 40 single with the UK garage collective, Pay As You Go, which disbanded in 2002, and was eventually dissolved into the Roll Deep crew.
Similar to American counterparts, who helped pave the way for the hip-hop subculture in England, the 39-year-old emcee draws on real experiences from his life as source material for his rhymes.
After moving around a lot as a child, Wiley went to live with his father in Bow, a district in the East-End of London, where he turned to hustling crack cocaine and heroin to making a living. There was a fair amount of rap in the ‘80s that tried to be preventative and spread awareness of the crack epidemic, but, as one of the cheaper and somewhat more available substances, a lot of rappers, particularly The Notorious B.I.G., rapped about selling drugs to make enough dough to get by.
Where do think the term “trap” came from? Perhaps that is a story for another time, but let’s just say it has to do with picking up these kinds of illegal narcotics.
In the beginning, he started by making music as a DJ incorporating garage and drum ‘n’ bass into his instrumentals, before he eventually began rapping, which led to the creation of the earliest known Grime beats such as “Eskimo.” He would then broadcast his productions on the pirate radio station, Rinse FM, which was founded in 1994 by DJ Geeneus and DJ Slimzee, two 16-year-old producers that would go on to become hip-hop pioneers.
If you should take anything away from reading this, it is hopefully the fact hip-hop culture is one that is celebrated universally by people from all walks of life. It is important to remember this today as we applaud the UK rap artist for keeping the music going and inspiring a whole new generation of grime artists.
Following the award presentation, Wiley hit the stage at the O2 Academy Brixton in London for his biggest headline performance to date. The Grime rap pioneer is also scheduled to release Godfather II, the highly anticipated sequel to his 2017 album, Godfather, which since has gone on to become the highest-charting album of his career. Be sure and stay tuned to Salute Magazine for a full review of Godfather II when it drops on March 30th.