UTM Discuss: Grime’s Potential and Popularity

While waiting what seemed like an eternity for Skepta‘s album Konnichiwa, we were beginning to wonder about grime as a whole and where this current exposure is leading the UK’s most divisive genre.

This discussion also proved to be divisive, as Richard and Tom take an optimistic look on the future of grime, while Mark and Nathan express concerns about its commodification.

Bait question to start off but fuck it, what did you think of Konnichiwa?

Nathan: The singles were the only good thing about it, to be brutally honest. He took so long making this album and it just doesn’t show at all. What the fuck was that ‘Numbers’ track with Pharrell?!

Richard: I was actually kinda disappointed. I was expecting a world-conquering, innovative release and it really didn’t live up to those expectations. But don’t get me wrong, it has some bangers – specifically ‘Detox’ and the one with Novelist.

Tom: I liked it, it was hard not to – but I didn’t hear anything on it that surprised me. He didn’t push the boat out or try anything new, just played it quite safe.

Mark: I haven’t listened, and I might not bother after those verdicts.

Nathan: I think we’ve all saved Mark some valuable time just now.

Mark: Thank you, friends.

Tom: I heard rumours of Earl Sweatshirt being on the album and the inclusion of some Japanese MCs but none of that happened.

Mark: Not to mention there were rumours of a Kanye collaboration after his Brit shoutout to Skepta… Which would have made sense given the amount of time it’s been delayed.

Nathan: Grime got big, Skepta had so many options available to him… I think he panicked and just put no one on it.

Mark: So do you think it’s possible the release of Konnichiwa isn’t the ideal vision inside of Skepta’s head?

Nathan: I think the only way it would’ve worked is with ALL those things that could’ve potentially made it, but didn’t.

What do you think of the way the grime scene’s audience has diversified in the last few years?

Mark: I’m mixed, much like the new audience. *ba dum tsk*

Nathan: I hate to be that purist guy, but Eski Dance is a fucking travesty now – too many LADs are on the hype train.

Mark: Last time I went to Eskimo Dance, it had no atmosphere. It was gassy when Kano and Ghetts shared the stage, but I had to swim through a sea of plebs just to get a good view. None of these other man seemed to understand what was going on either.

Richard: Yeah it’s true.

Mark: In all honesty, I think it’s good for the expansion of the genre. I mean, we might see shit that we wouldn’t have imagined 4-5 years ago. Otherwise though, I’m not really a huge fan. Not meaning to sound like Thatcher, but there’s a real danger of grime losing its identity, the more it’s gentrified.

Tom: I agree that it’s getting bigger and it is becoming diluted, but if that ensures that the longevity and quality of music artists are putting out, I’m all for it.

Mark: I don’t think I could justify the genre losing value for the sake of longevity. What’s happening to grime is basically what’s happened to Carni and Caribbean food.

Will we be seeing a diversification akin to hip hop as grime gets bigger?

Richard: I’m not sure to be honest, we’re already seeing a huge diversification; there’s loads of experimental stuff coming out these days, and the original kinda sound is still going strong. Whilst at the same, the pop thing is blowing up, but arguably a lot of that stuff is rapidly becoming grime in name only.

Tom: I think give it time and we’ll start seeing some other sub genres start to appear and some cool crossovers happen.

Mark: Yeah I’m all for new sounds. Helps keep things fresh.

Nathan: I’m really sceptical because last time grime tried to do other things, everyone went to ‘dubstep’ and it fucking sucked.

Mark: I was never keen on the whole ‘MCs going over dubstep’ shit.

Richard: Idk the new Riko Dan tune with The Bug absolutely slays.

Tom: ‘Iceman’ is huge!

What is the most interesting piece of music a grime artist has created in the past 12 months?

Mark: I really like a lot of the brass instrumentals in Made in the Manor. That really works, like when Flowdan did that live orchestra set for SBTV.

Nathan: That’s where Kano’s links to music outside grime really came in handy – he’s a smart guy and knew how to work it so it was genuine and not forced.

Richard: Although I’m not a huge fan of his new release, I would say it’s certainly pushed a lot of boundaries.

Mark: You can always trust Kano to experiment and produce some interesting results. He’s gotten grief about being overly political and preachy in the past. I’d say he’s about getting the balance right nowadays.

Nathan: I’d like to mention Lady Leshurr‘s Queen’s Speech series too. That brought back the fun in grime, it was confrontational but in a subtle, fun way. I think grime can get way too serious sometimes so that brought it back down to Earth.

Mark: She’s cool af and the Brummie accent always gives me jokes.

Richard: Rocks FOE, Capo Lee, Nico Lindsay and a bunch of others came out at the start of the year and blew me away.

Will you be sad when Tempa T and Skepta are considered dad grime?

Richard: I will be sad, but probably more if I’m not a dad when that happens.

Nathan: It’s going to happen, things get old. I’m not sad about it. Although I am fearful that there aren’t enough personalities like the OGs to keep grime going at that level.

Mark: I’d be inclined to agree with Nathan, especially if Grime is going to experience an identity crisis in the near future.

Richard: I think with aforementioned diversification there’ll be household names all over the different styles of grime that will inevitably be about by that time.

Tom: There are always replacements. The OGs will pave the way and help show the news dons how it’s done.

Mark: I’m sceptical as to whether it’ll work like that.

There’s a thriving grime scene in Japan, but will it last? Is it a passing fad, or a sign of grime becoming cemented as a recognisable genre internationally?

Richard: I think it could kind of work as a scene in another country, but only musically – grime is very UK-centric. That said I’d love to hear what instrumentals might come out of the Japanese scene.

Tom: I don’t think western audiences will take Japanese grime very seriously, but I think it adds to grime’s global success.

Mark: I’m a lot happier with Japan’s involvement in grime than America’s.

Nathan: Publications like Grime Report have been supporting the Japanese scene, and loads of UK MCs and DJs have been playing in Japan. I think as long as the support from the UK publications continues, there’ll be a solid base in Japan for grime. But there’s a problem of Westerners not taking Asian culture seriously, so I’m sceptical.

Are there any potential stumbling blocks for grime’s continued growth?

Nathan: There’s always been a problem with labels, marketing etc. when it comes to grime. The industry suits have no idea how to promote grime, and there’s a distinct lack of people that do know how to do it in positions like that. So then there’s a real danger of it completely stopping in its tracks because no one knows how grime works, or possibly an even worse outcome – grime becomes commercialised and bland.

Mark: I definitely see the latter becoming a possibility.

Richard: I think what I said about it being very UK-centric is a big problem. The other main problem is the variance in accessibility – whilst you CAN turn grime into hyper-accessible, top 40 music, it kind of loses a lot in translation.

Nathan: Also we can’t forget the last time grime ‘got big’ – artists started ‘selling out’ and then all the youngers wanted to ‘sell out’ before even making it. It could be a potential problem this time round too.

Tom: Yeah it’s going to be an interesting couple of years for grime I’m excited to see where it goes, but please god no, no Chris Brown/grime crossovers…

Nathan: Oopsy daisy, grime fucked up again.

What do you think the future holds for grime both in the UK and worldwide?

Nathan: This current resurgence was based around a ‘back to basics’ movement and it’s already starting to lose its way. Grime is one of those genres that doesn’t translate to a wider audience easily, so the only way it’s going to continue along this path is if it loses part of what makes grime grime.

Mark: Grime will probably keep going down the direction it’s headed currently. I can see a wider engagement from more people, and I’m already pessimistic.

Tom: I see a refocussing of grime and more on the instrumental side as the freshest, most boundary-pushing grime.

Richard: I don’t think grime will be a worldwide phenomenon. I think the instrumental side of grime will get a lot bigger worldwide, however.

Mark: I don’t think grime and wider culture is ever going to be compatible… and I think wider culture is going to colonise grime and turn it into a commodity.

Nathan: You can already see it happening, really. Goodbye grime, you were widely misunderstood.
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