The Big Question is, “Is Grime a Sub-Genre of Hip-Hop?”
Since the resurgence of grime with artists such as Stormzy “selling out 2 show dates in London within seven minutes,” Skepta and BBK, amongst others are starting to get more and more critical acclaim and recognition due to the co-sign of major US artists such as Drake, and major brands getting behind their movement from across the globe, the big question being asked is, ‘Is grime a sub-genre of Hip-Hop?’
Although I'm now a rapper who is mostly hip-hop driven, I came up as a Grime MC. Over the years I’ve heard people describe Grime in a number of diverse ways and talk about its history in ways that seem as though they were reminiscing on something that I wasn’t around to experience, something that is rather different to what I remember, especially because I was there from the beginning, before Chipmunk could rhyme anything other than nursery rhymes, when Kano was a local MC from Plaistow East London, and grime was only played on pirate radio stations, house parties and small sectioned off rooms in clubs. But, before I begin giving my take on Grime and whether or not it is a subgenre of any other form of music, I will begin at the history of Grime itself and depict it in a way that is real, honest and accurate while sharing my story and involvement in the birth of the U.K. (predominantly London) movement & style of music that is taking the nation by storm, even going as far as across the Pacific and Atlantic. Of course I am open to being corrected should there be anything I miss out although I still remember it like it was yesterday. As far as I can remember, Grime didn’t exist pre millennium, in fact, I was trying to rap in school and we were having East Coast & West Coast fake wars in the school playground as we were so heavily influenced by the American Hip-Hop culture news and music. However, I recall being at a party at my local community centre one evening and DJ Rocky Boss stopping the CD that was playing Hip-Hop and put on this mix tape, no, not the type of mixed tapes we have today are more or less album, but a real mix tape (that’s right, a cassette tape with a mix of song on it from different artists). This tape had some strange music, so I got upset and asked, “what are you doing?” he replied "Listen to it, it’s good” I later on discovered that it was house & garage which would take over the airwaves and clubs of London and the UK for the next few years, this was in 1999.
After the millennium, garage became rather popular; it began to grow on me. We went off to college (college freshmen’s, for the U.S.) and as we were too young to get into most clubs we would go to several house parties, and at every party, they played garage, now I must also mention that this was the time where I started to run in the streets with my squad, the early stages of what would turn out to be (the beginning of my thug-life and activities) but it was the very early stages when every weekend was garage parties and good vibes. Then there came a point where there would need to be a DJ playing the garage tunes, but the DJ would most often be accompanied by an MC (Master of the Ceremony) the MC would mostly be talking over the music as the majority of garage songs were instrumentals, every now and then they would spit (drop) a few rhymes over the beat, but mostly they spent their time engaging the crowd. This then became the norm, hence the rise of the garage MC; my crew and I (there was at least 15 of us and most of the time a group of 20-30) started going to these house parties and the ones that were lit and had all the girls were mostly packed out and they wouldn’t let most of us in because we were a little rough, edgy and a lot of bodies, to be honest sometimes it was just too packed, so we couldn’t get in. However, on two or three occasions I heard the person who came to open the door ask ‘do any of you MC?' and we obviously said no’ and then they responded sorry we can’t let you in, the third time came around and the same question was asked, then and (Ping) a light bulb went off, I told myself I have to become an MC, that’s my free ticket to all these house parties! Shortly after I made up a rhyme or two to use as a means of getting into parties and passing myself off as an MC. I began to MC and got into a lot of parties, but then I really enjoyed the experience and started developing myself as an MC from there.
As Garage became the dominating form of music that young Londoners were listening to in the early 2000's and the majority of us got involved in MC’ing, the garage MC started becoming more about rhymes then simply hosting or engaging the crowd, consequently, as we were coming from a competitive nature we naturally began to clash (battle), the lines went from 4 to 8 bars and now it’s 16 bars as standard. The majority of us were kids from the streets, either gang affiliated or just thugs, therefore our rhyme content started becoming darker and more reflective of the realities that we were experiencing as teens who were predominantly black coming from impoverished families and areas, from the estates (projects) and violent or criminal backgrounds. There was a shift in the rhyming style and content, but then the (beats) instrumentals also began to be produced by us and these also became darker and more energetic but still fun at the same time. I guess you could say we took house & garage and flipped it into our own form off music (similar to what happens with break beats), crews like ‘Pay as you Go Cartel’ wich featured the likes of Major Ace, Maxwell D, Gods Gift, Flow Dan, DJ Slimzee & Wiley, Heartless crew (Mighty Moe, MC Bushkin & DJ Fonti), Nasty crew who’s former members include (DJ Marcus Nasty, Sharky Major, Storming MC, Kano, Armor, D Double E), Mo Fire crew (Lethal B, Ozzie B and Nikko), So Solid etc. These crews amongst others began to take over the scene on pirate radio and performed at major night clubs and events including the Notting Hill Carnival, some even went as far as charting nationally by creating original songs producing their own instrumentals and putting them into song format, even though the genre was fundamentally based on rhyming over instrumentals. Then more and more producers began to come forth and the sound had changed so much and moved so far away from house and garage that it couldn’t be described as Garage any longer. Wiley went a far as doing a song titled ‘what do you call it?’ referring to the genre. It was clear that this was not house and garage anymore as his sound was so unique and distinguished it became his own and had to be differentiated, therefore, he named his beats (eskibeat) out of his most popular instrumental which was titled eskimo, but he was not alone, as stated, previously the whole sound of garage changed so much that it became its own genre, from the fun party sounds of house & garage to the gritty street sounds of what we now know as Grime. Opposed to garage, grime uses more electronic sounds that are hard hitting, sharing more similarity to jungle the edgy electronic music at 120 to 150 bpm at times, the instrumentals have drops that are distinctive and the dopest M.C.’s catch the drop and start rhyming their most popular verses and this creates a euphoric sensation for the listener.
Because of the lyrical content, the rhyming patterns and the fact that the genre consists of DJ and MC, the street element that surrounds it being an art form that was developed in the street, by those who come from the street and due to it becoming very lyrical and having so many similarities to hip-hop people would classify it as a sub-genre. However, it is too distinctive in style and form to be classed as such, it has it’s own wave, its own instrumental patterns, its own format and a niche following, the words are mostly British slang, the sounds are highly electronic and different. The wave is so different and impactful that I’ve chosen to create the song '100% Turn Up' which merges the three styles that I am highly influenced by, namely, grime, trap & rap (GTR), the single is off my upcoming EP titled ‘LLDK’ due out in 2017. Nevertheless, in due time, it will be interesting to see whether hip-hop heavily changes and is heavily influence by grime or if the continuation of the growth of hip-hop influences grime enough that it does actually become a sub-genre as the two have so much in common.