Stylistic origins UK garage, dancehall, drum and bass, jungle, soca, hip house, electro, hip hop, R&B, techno, trip hop, dub
Cultural origins Early 2000s,
Bow, East London, England
Typical instruments Emceeing, toasting, rapping, music sequencer, Digital Audio Workstation, Turntables
Derivative forms Dubstep, Drumstep
Fusion genres

Grime is a style of British music that emerged from Bow in London in the early 2000s, primarily as a development of UK garage, drum & bass, hip hop and dancehall.[1] Pioneers of the style include English rappers Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, Roll Deep, Kano, and Skepta.


Origins and development

Grime emerged from Bow, East London with its origins on UK pirate radio stations,[1] such as Rinse FM,[2] Deja Vu Fm, Freeze 92.7 & were essential to the evolution of the genre. 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 complexed 16 bar and 32 bar verse patterns), "Sublow" (a reference to the very low bassline frequencies, often around 40 Hz[3]), 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' by Wiley and "Pulse X" by Musical Mob.[4]

Dizzee Rascal and Wiley were among the first to bring the genre to the attention of the mainstream media in 2003-4, with their albums Boy in da Corner and Treddin' on Thin Ice respectively. Dizzee Rascal garnered broad critical acclaim and commercial success with Boy in da Corner winning the 2003 Mercury Music Prize.[1] Grime has received exposure from television stations including Channel U (now known as Channel AKA), Logan Sama's show on London station Kiss FM, and the BBC's youth-oriented digital radio station BBC Radio 1Xtra.

Grime, however, is a cross-pollinated genre, taking influences from a variety of different cultural styles as well as musical ones,[1][5] and is therefore still in many respects considered to be underground music, even after mainstream exposure. It exists in a largely informal economy in which most artists make their debuts on independently-produced battle DVDs[6] that, like mixtapes are sold out of barbershops and make their way around the city. Artists receive a lot of help from Pirates radio stations which keep the public up to date with the music. Even though Grime is very popular in the UK, many recording labels have yet to acknowledge its presence as a genre that can compete in the global market. There is a perception that international major labels don't understand the value of Grime, as DJ Semtex, an A&R for Def Jam Recordings and also Dizzee Rascal's DJ says, "the biggest conflict I have is with major labels because they still don’t get it". He says that they just don't understand the value of Grime, and more so UK Music as a whole, as other countries do.[5]

Although Grime is recognised as a creative and innovative musical style,[5] 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.[6]

On March 20, 2013, a comedy drama called Youngers began on E4 and is based around a group of teenagers in South-East London trying to become recognised in the grime music scene.[7] Another series of the show is in production after being commissioned by Channel 4.[8]

International growth

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,[9] Rolling Stone,[10] NME,[11] and Rock Sound.[12] By 2010, he had achieved three number one singles in a row.

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,[13] although her music has departed considerably from her early output on pirate radio stations, and she does not regard herself as a grime artist.

The international growth of the Grime scene has also been evident in recent years with many of the popular 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. For example Dizzee Rascal played at all these events in the summer of 2008.[14][15]

Grime has evolved over the years and brought new artists to the music type.

Musical style

Grime is typified by complex 2-step, 4X4, breakbeats, generally around 140 beats per minute, or sometimes structured around a halftime rhythm, and constructed from different synth, string and electronic sounds.[1] Stylistically, grime draws on many genres including UK Garage, Drum and Bass, Hip Hop/Rap and Dancehall.[5] The lyrics and music combine futuristic electronic elements and dark, guttural bass lines.

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."[6] Frere-Jones also states that Grime has maintained a style distinct from Hip Hop, with clear African and Caribbean influences.[6] Hattie Collins supports Frere-Jones' analysis, asserting that Grime is "an amalgamation of UK Garage with a bit of Drum'n'Bass, a splash of Punk and a touch of Hip-Hop thrown in for good measure."[5] 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 East London and other parts of the capital.[16]


As with many similar scenes around the world, grime has encountered some criticism, especially from government officials such as Home Secretary David Blunkett who in 2003 called rap lyrics "appalling". Former minister Kim Howells made a statement in 2006 that Grime artists were helping to create a culture "where killing is almost a fashion accessory."[17] Howells went even deeper into the issue, making comments that some grime supporters claimed to find "deeply racist," referring to popular artists and crews as "boasting macho idiot rappers."[18] 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.[19]

See also


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