Grime: What do you call it? #DB8

For this week’s #DB8 we’re going to discuss the issue of whether or not grime can be summed up in simple terms. So…what exactly does grime mean to you and, more importantly, how is it defined?

“What do you call it, garage? What do you call it, urban? What do you call it, 2-step?” – Wiley – Wot Do U Call It? (2004)

Since the very beginning, the grime scene has held a strong and unmistakeable identity within UK music – in essence, that is – but a somewhat hard to pinpoint and varied sound overall.

Emerging from garage in the early to mid noughties, the music was sculpted from a fusion of many of the UK’s purest homegrown flavours, leaving the lines somewhat blurred between identifying where one sound stops and another begins.

Many people argue that grime is quite simply and clearly identified by its 140 BPM beats and infectious reload bars – an argument which holds a lot of weight on the surface of things. But, surely, ten years in, and with many emcees continuing to display the genre’s deeper and more articulate side, the argument that grime is simply made for reloads at Eskimo Dance doesn’t fully stack up. As with anything, the evolution of the genre has seen the quality of the music rise, with some of the country’s most revered wordsmiths stepping up to the mic and representing for the genre. Just think of the carefully executed, astute rhymes found on Dizzee‘s ‘Boy In Da Corner’ or Trim‘s ‘Soul Food’ mixtapes; were they made just for the raves?

Besides the emcees, production has moved on a lot too, with grime producers becoming increasingly creative and unpredictable in the way they approach constructing their beats. It may have been easy to pick out an ‘Ice Rink’ or ‘Creeper’ riddim as a stereotypically grime-sounding instrumental back in the day, but with producers such as Darq E FreakerPreditah and Royal T attempting to push the boundaries sonically, the spectrum of sounds to be heard within the scene tends to vary enormously.

Others argue that grime can be defined by its inner-city, homegrown pirate radio roots and – regardless of the beats – it’s merely the energy that binds it together; sentiments which could, possibly, seem to be accurate upon first glance. However, as we look deeper and come to study how the genre has grown throughout the years, we find that it has inevitably became diversified in many aspects. Artists such as Manchester’s Blizzard and Brum’s Lady Leshurr have helped to offer differing perspectives through the medium. And with the sound spreading so rapidly to new areas, naturally comes even more change. Take Tre Mission, for example; if a Canadian emcee – and a respected one, at that – isn’t proof of how far the grime scene has come, what is?

Ultimately, wouldn’t it be more logical to argue that none of the above is totally accurate and, in fact, grime isn’t simply a genre at all; it’s evolved into a culture, a way of life. Starting as an expression of the frustrations felt by some of London’s most disenfranchised youths, it has blossomed into a culture that represents an entire lifestyle – spanning across not only music but films, clothing, media and pretty much every aspect of youth culture and expression today.

What do YOU think? How would you define the genre and what does it mean to you? As always, you can hit us up on Twitter using the hashtag #DB8 or, alternatively, drop us a line in the comments section below.

Written by Ash Houghton