Early last month, I had the pleasure of traveling to a few European countries as a gift to myself for what I assumed to be the last semester of my Undergraduate career. While traveling through Europe, I spent some time in the U.K. and was introduced to Grime music and the legion of artists who make up the genre. Although a self described “Rap enthusiast”, the closest I had been to the Grime scene was Drakes More Life, which essentially means I had absolutely no knowledge of the genre or the culture created around it. What I did know was that Drake proclaimed U.K. Rap artists to be superior to those in America, and I would now finally get to see, or hear, for myself.
Of all of the artists I was introduced to, Skepta is by far the best and most talented rapper the Grime scene has to offer. What he may lack in lyricism, he makes up for in tone, flow and content. 2012s Blacklisted sees him detailing the trials and tribulations he faced during his life, while also attempting to distance himself from those UK artists who are chasing an American sound. How are they comparing these waste man to him when he did 5 shows in 5 different continents? I have no idea.
Although not as commanding as Skepta, JME was the next artist in the Grime scene that I was introduced to. A talented MC, on “Serious” he proclaimed that being a skilled MC didn’t require artists to always chronicle the violence and gritty nature that they were accustomed to in the slums they had risen from. On tracks such as this and “Work”, instead of focusing on his storytelling ability, he seems to be more interested in sharpening his flow and punchlines, something characteristic of many U.K. MC’s. Despite seemingly attempting to distance himself from the negative stereotypes of Grime artists and possibly black people in general, “Man Don’t Care” sees he and Grime artist Giggs going against the advice laid down on “Serious”, and showcases him handing out some of the least intimidating threats I’ve ever heard on wax. In his defense, it must be extremely difficult to sound violent and/or scary in a society that has little to no gun violence in comparison to his American counterparts.
“You’re not a gangster, you’re an internet version.” My introduction to Giggs was “he’s the artist that the Culture Vulture Drake is ripping off.” As an American and a fan of the said Vulture, I of course was taken back and immediately became defensive, before realizing that Black Twitter was possibly onto something. Although not what most people would consider a lyricist, Giggs’ tone and delivery separate him from other artists in the Grime scene and prove to be his greatest strength. This ability is fully displayed in “Whippin Excursion“, a song which sees him detailing a story of drugs, crimes and his disdain for fraudulent artists.
Hip-Hop/Rap has always been predominantly male driven, but as with anything in life, there has always been more to the story. Women in the genre have proven that their voices are just as important as their male counterparts and something worth being voiced. Possibly the most popular female artist in Grime, Lady Leeshur is artist unlike the others discussed. Her music does not center around the hardships she has faced throughout her life nor does she attempt to create melodic music. Essentially, I would classify her as a “technical rapper”. Although being extremely positive at times, relying heavily on this skill causes her to sometimes appear “corny” and boxes her in, causing her to recite things like “I turn boys to girls, Bruce Jenner”.
Though including extremely talented artists who have proven just how far Rap and Hip-Hop music has gone, Drake is crazier than a fish with titties if he thinks for even a second that the best the U.K. has to offer could even be mentioned in the same category as the best America has to offer. Sounds like nothing but bollocks to me!