Grime (music genre)

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Grime is a genre of music that emerged in London in the early 2000s. It developed out of earlier UK electronic music styles, including UK garage and jungle,[2] and also draws influence from Jamaican dancehall, ragga, and hip hop.[3] The style is typified by rapid, syncopated breakbeats, generally around 130 or 140 bpm,[2] and often features an aggressive or jagged electronic sound.[4] Rapping is also a significant element of the style, and lyrics often revolve around gritty depictions of urban life.[5]

The style initially spread among pirate radio stations (such as Rinse FM) and underground scenes before achieving some mainstream recognition in the UK during the mid-2000s through artists such as Dizzee Rascal, Kano, Lethal Bizzle, and Wiley. Other prominent artists include Ghetts, Jme, Skepta, Stormzy, and Novelist. Prominent grime crews include Boy Better Know, Newham Generals, Roll Deep, and Ruff Sqwad. In the mid 2010s, grime began to receive popular attention in North America.



Roll Deep, a well-known grime crew, performs at the 2006 Love Music Hate Racism festival.

Grime emerged in the early 2000s in London's East-end. It has origins tied with UK pirate radio stations such as Rinse FM,[6] Deja Vu FM, Freeze 92.7 and Raw Mission. At this point, the style was known by a number of names, including 8-bar (meaning 8 bar verse patterns), nu shape (which encouraged more complex 16 bar and 32 bar verse patterns), sublow (a reference to the very low bassline frequencies, often around 40 Hz[7]), as well as eskibeat, a term applied specifically to a style initially developed by Wiley and his collaborators, incorporating dance and electro elements. This indicated the movement of UK garage away from its house influences towards darker themes and sounds. Among the first tracks to be labelled "grime" as a genre in itself were "Eskimo", "Ice Rink" and "Igloo" by Wiley, "Pulse X" by Musical Mob and "Creeper" by Danny Weed.[8]

The article[9] suggests that forms of contemporary popular music parallel key facets of ethnography, not simply in terms of sociological analysis, but with regard to popular music as an ethnographic resource, as ‘data’, and as the reflexive expression of Paul Willis’ conception of the ‘ethnographic imagination’; and the article argues that contemporary British hip-hop in the form of ‘grime’ is a potent exemplar. This is due to the resolutely cultural, spatial nature of grime music: a factor that marks out grime as a distinctive musical genre and a distinctive ethnographic form, as it is an experientially rooted music about urban locations, made from within those urban locations.


Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, Kano and Lethal Bizzle were among the first to bring the genre to mainstream media attention in 2003–2004, with their albums Boy in da Corner, Treddin' on Thin Ice, Home Sweet Home and Against All Oddz respectively. Dizzee Rascal garnered widespread critical acclaim and commercial success with Boy in da Corner winning the 2003 Mercury Music Prize.[2] Grime has since received exposure from television stations including Channel U (now known as Channel AKA), Logan Sama's show on London radio station Kiss FM, the BBC's youth-oriented digital radio station BBC Radio 1Xtra.[citation needed],[10] in particular Charlie Sloth's show which showcases various grime artists like Stormzy, Bugzy Malone and Akala (rapper) with his popular segment "Fire In The Booth" and the MOBO Awards which launched its first 'Best Grime' category in 2014 (prior to this Grime had been merged with 'Best Hip-Hop' since 2011) when the show was being broadcast on BBC One.

Grime is not an offshoot of early electronic music, but rather a subgenre that draws from a wide variety of influences. Early innovative artists such as Dizzee Rascal and Wiley were able to take the strong thumping drums of drum and bass, lyricism and vocal styles of UK Garage and alter some of the rhythms of dancehall to capture all three genre’s essences and add a new half-time, down-tempo dimension to the mix. The genre’s popularity grew exponentially in the United Kingdom, as people across the scene’s musical spectrum appreciated Grime’s eclectic mix of instrumentation and subcultures. This hybridization united many different music scenes, allowing for it to spread in the same word-of-mouth and mixtape-based style as hip-hop, yet still appeal to fans of electronic music. It also paved the way for more electronic music artists to incorporate stronger African and Caribbean influences in the future. Grime never received the same attention worldwide that it did in the UK. Much like many other less mainstream forms of British electronic music, its main scene and fan base remained in the United Kingdom.

Although Grime is recognised as a creative and innovative musical style,[11] there are other contributing factors to its rapid and widespread growth in popularity; the MCs producing current grime music are overwhelmingly young as a group. The most well known names in the industry such as Dizzee Rascal and Kano both getting their first hits at age 16 with "I Luv U" and "Boys Love Girls" respectively, and the resultant package of "youth making music for youth" is seen as a crucial factor for grime's success.[12]

From 2013 onwards producers started to create what they called "instrumental grime" and they battled in so-called "war dubs", as producer Footsie explains in this interview.[13]

Dizzee Rascal performing in 2013

In April 2014, Meridian Dan reached #13 in the UK Singles Charts with his single "German Whip" featuring Big H and Jme. Two months after that, Skepta reached #21 in the UK Singles Chart with his single "That's Not Me" featuring his brother Jme. Two months later, Lethal Bizzle released the single "Rari WorkOut" featuring Jme and Tempa T, which also charted, peaking at #11 in the UK Singles Charts.

As of 2015, Lethal Bizzle has four of the highest charting grime songs to date. "Oi!" by Lethal Bizzle's former group, (More Fire Crew), which was released in 2002 hit #7 on the UK Singles charts; "Pow! (Forward Riddim)", released in 2004, peaked at #11 in the UK Singles chart; "Rari Workout" again peaked at #11 in the UK Singles Charts in 2014 and "Fester Skank" also hit #11 in 2015.

In late 2015, following Stormzy's performance of "Shut Up" during the ring walk to Anthony Joshua's Heavyweight boxing match with Dillian White, Stormzy gained attention and pushed the song further up the charts, peaking at number eight in the UK Singles Chart.

In February 2016, Ministry of Sound and DJ Maximum released a grime compilation entitled Grime Time, which topped the UK compilations chart.

In May 2016, Skepta's fourth studio album, Konnichiwa, entered the UK Albums Chart at number two. The album explored grime's relationship with the United States, and features appearances from ASAP Mob members Young Lord and ASAP Nast as well as production and vocals from Pharrell Williams. The album was awarded the 2016 Mercury Prize.[14]

In February 2017, Stormzy's album "Gang Signs & Prayer", was the first grime album to reach number one on the UK Albums Chart.

National growth[edit]

As grime became more popular in the UK throughout the mid 2000s, it spread out of London to other big British cities. Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol and Manchester now have Grime MCs who are currently gaining major exposure in the scene and have featured on Lord Of The Mics, an annual DVD released by Boy Better Know's Jammer.

The national growth of the grime scene has also been evident with many grime artists playing on the urban music stages of the big summer festivals such as Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, T in the Park and O2 Wireless Festival in Hyde Park. Dizzee Rascal played at all these events in the summer of 2008.[15][16]


The largest scene outside of London is based in Birmingham and the wider Birmingham area.[17]

The development of Grime started largely with Mike Skinner of The Streets. His debut album Original Pirate Material was released to critical acclaim, Skinner than followed this up with an EP entitled All Got Our Runnins which featured a number of Grime MCs on the remixes of some of his tracks. Skinner also produced and featured on Kano's 2005 hit single, Nite Nite, from the critically acclaimed Home Sweet Home (Kano album) album.

In 2006, the first in the series of Lord of the Mics DVDs was released. It featured Devilman from Birmingham, clashing Skepta. Devilman's appearance on Lord of the Mics is one of the earliest examples of a Midlands MC at the forefront of the scene and is credited by Jammer with helping to break down the stigma of accents from outside of London over Grime music. The clash is considered to be one of the greatest in the LOTM series with artists such as Drake praising it. Devilman would later link up with Mike Skinner to appear on the remix of Prangin' Out.

In 2007, Trilla released the single 'G Star', produced by The Dwellaz. A fusion of Grime and Bassline, it became an underground hit.[18] Several other tracks were released during this time which were also well received by fans, such as Slash's 'Birmingham' and C4's 'Oorite'.

In 2009, Greater Birmingham producer S-X released the Woooo Riddim, which was widely regarded as one of the most successful instrumentals that year, with many MCs recording their own vocals over the beat.

By the early 2010s, the Grime scene in Birmingham was well established and the city hosted several highly successful events called 'Goonies' at the Rainbow Warehouse in Digbeth.[19] These events attracted some of the biggest names in Grime, most notably P-Money, who referenced the events on his single 'Slang Like This'.[20]

Other prominent artists include Deadly, who formed the Grime group N.O.D.B, the first group from Birmingham to feature on BBC Radio 1Xtra; Mayhem, who is also a founding member of N.O.D.B, known for his bombastic sound and his 2012 feud with Wiley,[21][22] C4, Sox, and Bassboy. Many Birmingham artists have now had success outside of the Birmingham region in recent years. The fourth edition of Lady Leshurr's Queen's Speech freestyle has gained over 28 million views on YouTube as of May 2016.[23] In 2016, Lady Leshurr won a MOBO award for the best Female Act.[24]

As well as hosting large events, the pirate radio scene includes stations such as Silk City Radio, where Birmingham DJ Big Mikee hosts a regular slot between 10-12pm every Sunday.[25]

Birmingham producers such as Preditah and Swifta Beater have became established figures in the Grime scene, with leading artists such as Wiley giving recognition to their contribution to Grime.[26] In 2011, Preditah released his Solitaire EP; a collection of four Grime instrumentals. This EP reached number 1 on the iTunes album charts.

International growth[edit]


The 2005 release of 679 Recordings' Run the Road compilation showcased some of the most popular grime releases to that point, increasing the popularity and fame of grime and grime artists internationally. A particularly notable grime artist who has had success overseas is Lady Sovereign, who appeared on Late Show with David Letterman, signed to Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records, and whose "Love Me or Hate Me" became the first video by a British artist to reach number one on MTV's Total Request Live,[27] although her music has departed considerably from her early output on pirate radio stations, and she does not regard herself as a grime artist.[citation needed]

It was not until the release of his third album, 2007's Maths + English, that Dizzee Rascal experienced international acclaim. He was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize again, and despite the fact that the album was not released in the United States in 2007, it received high praise from international music critics, magazines, websites and blogs, including Pitchfork Media,[28] Rolling Stone,[29] and Rock Sound.[30] By 2010, he had achieved three number one singles in a row.


Following the string of hits in 2014, grime has become increasingly popular in North America. Skepta's collaborations with North American rappers Ace Hood, Earl Sweatshirt, ASAP Mob, Drake and the Flatbush Zombies have made him one of grime's best-known names in the US and Canada.[31] Grime has also spread to Australia, Japan, Finland and the Netherlands, which such acts as Tre Mission, Pakin, Töölön Ketterä and Danny G Tha Saviour.

Musical style[edit]

Grime is typified by complex 2-step, 4x4 breakbeats, generally around 140 beats per minute, or sometimes structured around a double-time rhythm, and constructed from different synth, string and electronic sounds.[2] Stylistically, grime draws on many genres including UK garage, drum and bass, hip hop and dancehall.[11] The lyrics and music combine futuristic electronic elements and dark, guttural basslines.[citation needed]

Grime predominantly evolved from the UK speed garage scene and genre towards the latter stages, although it takes influences from other genres.[citation needed] According to Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker, grime has developed a fierce sound by "distilling" rhythms to a minimal style resulting in a choppy, off-centre sound. Whereas hip hop is inherently dance music, the writer argues that "grime sounds as if it had been made for a boxing gym, one where the fighters have a lot of punching to do but not much room to move."[12] Frere-Jones also states that grime has maintained a style different to hip hop.[12] Hattie Collins supports Frere-Jones' analysis, asserting that grime is "an amalgamation of UK garage with a bit of drum & bass, a splash of punk."[11]

According to Alex de Jong and Marc Schuilenburg, grime music also samples sawtooth wave sounds (chiptunes) from video game music and ringtones which had become part of everyday life in London and other parts of the country.[32] British grime lyrics often reference communication technologies popular with artists and listeners such as smartphones and social media.


As with many similar scenes around the world, grime has encountered some criticism, especially from government officials such as Kim Howells who made comments that some grime supporters claimed to find "deeply racist", referring to popular artists and crews as "boasting macho idiot rappers".[33] A counter argument is given by Jeff Chang in an article in The Village Voice where he said Dizzee Rascal's often violent and sexual lyrics are heralded as "capturing, encapsulating, and preserving" the life that he and his peers live on the streets every day.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ""I Want To Blast My Record In Chinatown": an Interview with Fatima Al Qadiri". Thump. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d McKinnon, Matthew (2005-05-05). "Grime Wave". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 2007-01-26. Retrieved 2016-01-23. 
  3. ^ "Hip-Hop Or Dancehall? Breaking Down The Grime Scene's Roots". Complex UK. Retrieved 2017-02-05. 
  4. ^ "Garage rap/Grime overview". AllMusic. Retrieved 9 February 2017. 
  5. ^ Bramwell, Richard (2012). UK Hip-Hop, Grime and the City: The Aesthetics and Ethics of London's Rap Scenes. Routledge. 
  6. ^ Campion, Chris (2004-05-23). "Inside grime". Observer Music Monthly. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 2009-07-26. 
  7. ^ Sturges, Fiona (2005-07-09). "A life of grime". The Independent. Independent News & Media. Retrieved 2009-07-26. 
  8. ^ Harvell, Jess (2005-03-21). "They Don't Know". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2008-02-25. 
  9. ^ Barron, Lee (2013-10-01). "The sound of street corner society: UK grime music as ethnography". European Journal of Cultural Studies. 16 (5): 531–547. doi:10.1177/1367549413491937. ISSN 1367-5494. 
  10. ^ "BBC - Radio 1Xtra - Home". Retrieved 2016-11-28. 
  11. ^ a b c Collins, Hattie (2004-11-19). "will grime pay?". Collective. BBC. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  12. ^ a b c Frere-Jones, Sasha (2005-03-21). "True Grime". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  13. ^ Thomas Burkhalter Norient. "Grime Instrumentals and War Dubs". Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  14. ^ Adam Bychawski (2016-09-15). "Skepta wins Mercury Prize 2016". NME. Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  15. ^ [1] O2 reports Dizzee Rascal to play at O2 & Glastonbury
  16. ^ [2] NME reports on Dizzee Rascal playing at Reading festival
  17. ^ Hall, Josh. "Could Birmingham Ever Surpass London as the Home of Grime?". Retrieved 17 February 2017. 
  18. ^ "TRILLA G-STAR VIDEO". Retrieved 17 February 2017. 
  19. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. ^ "DEADLY: Birmingham's Big M.I.C. Man? - fabric blog". Retrieved 29 September 2016. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ Lady Leshurr (1 August 2015). "Lady Leshurr - Queen's Speech Ep.4". Retrieved 29 September 2016 – via YouTube. 
  24. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  26. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^ Mathewson, Catriona (2007-02-16). "Sovereign hits her gold mine". The Courier-Mail. Queensland Newspapers. Retrieved 2008-04-13. 
  28. ^ Patrin, Nate (2007-06-15). "Dizzee Rascal: Maths + English". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  29. ^ Hoard, Christian (2007-05-30). "Maths + English". Rolling Stone Online. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  30. ^ Galil, Leor. "Dizzee Rascal - Maths & English". Rock Sound. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 
  31. ^ Dexter, Thomas. "POP & HISS; Noble Grime; Paintings Grandly Honor Heroes of a Pop Genre." Los Angeles TimesOct 27 2015. ProQuest. Web. 15 Feb. 2016 .
  32. ^ Alex de Jong, Marc Schuilenburg (2006). Mediapolis: popular culture and the city. 010 Publishers. p. 106. ISBN 90-6450-628-0. Retrieved 30 July 2011. 
  33. ^ Gibbons, Fiachra (2003-01-06). "Minister labelled racist after attack on rap 'idiots'". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  34. ^ Chang, Jeff (2004-01-13). "Future Shock". The Village Voice. Retrieved 2008-03-12. 

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of grime at Wiktionary