Grime, a formerly underground genre, has been called as disruptive and powerful as punk. A study by Ticketmaster shows that the number of grime streams has surpassed 200 million. How did this music genre gain success and love in the mainstream? If you’ve ever wondered what grime music is, the artists that started it, and what its future will be, here’s everything you need to know.
What is grime music?
Despite often being associated with hip-hop, grime is actually a type of electronic dance music. It has strong garage and jungle roots, both of which are electronic music styles that came from the UK. The defining sound is rapid breakbeats, and the style can be compared to rapping. Like hip-hop, the subject matter is often gritty and urban.
The origins of grime
The first ever grime song was created in 2002 by an artist called Wiley, who had become frustrated with garage music. This song, “Eskibeat” would be the call to arms that many young people in Britain’s council estates and urban neighborhoods felt they needed. London especially was the ground zero of the grime movement.
Pirate radio started playing grime, and it became popular in the underground music scene. The low-budget videos added to the raw, authentic feel of the music. Locally around the UK, grime began to grow. In 2004, “Pow” by Lethal Bizzle causes such a commotion that club owners ban it from being played. Dizzee Rascal is a prime example of how the rise of grime happened.
In 2003, he won the Mercury Prize. Four years later, his album, “Maths + English”, went gold. This was a huge moment that showed grime was viable commercially. However, some accused the artist of abandoning his true grime roots.
The rise of grime internationally
America was the largest foreign market to adopt grime as a popular genre. US artist Kanye West brought 40 grime artists on stage in 2015 during the Brit Awards, and in so doing put grime on the map in America. One of the other defining international moments was also when Skepta went on a worldwide tour. Even after a visa ban from America – which was later overturned – he named his tour Banned From America, and still went on to have great success.
Most recently, Stormzy has gained wide international commercial success. He was awarded Best International Act by the BET Awards in America in 2015. Grime has also expanded around the world to places as far as Japan and Shanghai. In the early 2000s, there was a grime scene in Osaka, Japan inspired by British grime group Roll Deep. The fast-paced spitting of the MCs there is iconic.
There was also another scene in Tokyo. Unlike in other places, grime is still an underground scene in the country. There is also a small locale in Shanghai, much of it coming from foreign artists. The calling card there is lyrics inspired by local pop culture like Mandopop.