Pirate radio was a format picked up from grime’s narrative predecessors. The format spanned jungle, garage, grime, funky house and dubstep; allowing the early era of spitters to be heard in a time where mainstream avenues were duly padlocked, and the advancement in streaming and video technology simply didn’t exist. Alongside record stores, white labels, DVDs and live shows, the radio made up part of a specialist infrastructure in grime and underground music. Not only could MCs, producers and DJs promote their endeavours, they could also receive monetary gain from their artistic output. Eventually the institutions were slowly eroded: Slimzee infamously received an ASBO that prohibited him from being however many feet high in a building, while record shops turned to cafes. Form 696 meant artists trying to do something positive were pitted against the forces of institutional racism, its shock waves being felt as late as up to four years ago.

Sir Spyro brings together three MCs from London, related only by area, to shell down for 30+ minutes.
A testament to good curation on radio.

Fast forward to 2015, and new blood emerged. Just before grime’s tidal wave of popularity became canonised, young spitters and DJs breathed new life into an old format. Of course, it would be disingenuous to view this era as the sole harbinger of grime’s upward turn in fortunes: Rinse went legal in 2010, and a look at a resource like this brings up plenty of recordings from the mid 2000s and pre 2010. Nevertheless, it’s ultimately hard to deny that the internet radio era of grime brought ears back to the scene – you only have to look at where Novelist, AJ Tracey and Big Zuu are now to prove that. The energy around that era has dimmed a little. Grime has arguably taken a backseat in popularity due to the emergence of drill, afro-swing and UK rap, but it’s just as much down to the cyclical nature of music. Discussions drive into cul-de-sacs online, and the whole grime is dead subject remains truly boring, but there are interesting points to mine from the circular discussions.

Roll Deep B2B Nasty Crew – because, who doesn’t love an old school grime set?

The more critical viewers of grime claim that radio has a part to play in grime supposedly being on the back foot in terms of popularity, citing the fact there aren’t swathes of listeners locked on to the airwaves and thirty minutes of bars and beats don’t have the same impact as a well packaged single and video product. There is also the idea that it eats into potential studio time, preventing an artist from making sustainable output in today’s hyper speed, fast food esque consumption of music.

Those are fair points made, but radio can be a key tenet of the genre as it moves forward. Unique selling point would be too corporate, but if grime is supposedly dying, lessening the focus on formats that give the genre its personal flair seems misguided. That’s not to say that it should be the sole focus of an artists output, musicians have to eat and it would be naïve to think radio could sustain a livelihood. But the nuances of underground culture are why we flock to them, so it would seem better to find ways to inject perceived legacy formats with new ways of presentation. Curation plays a part. DJ Oblig has recently left Pyro Radio to take a regular slot on Rinse FM – but on both stations, timeslots ignored – he has consistently put together shows featuring MCs, ranging from any number between one and nine artists. Take this set with Cadell – it might just be the pleasantries before the vibes – but Oblig remarks how he’s got a bag of instrumentals he feels like Cadell would go well over. It’s not a case of plonking twenty MCs in a room and seeing what happens, there’s method behind the presentation. Due to his mixing style, you are likely to hear grime MCs flowing over drill beats, without obfuscating their natural flair. It allows for mixing of genres, creating something new even if it’s as small as a grime MC on a different style of beat.

One of the many quality DJ Oblig sets.

Rinse plays host to the I Am Grime show, a broadcast helmed by Jammz and Jack Dat. Aside from being a place to test out new tunes and invite MCs on, they feature a segment named #SampleDat, which allows producers from across the world to put together tunes made from samples they let out on Twitter before the show. The best ones are played on air, creating a platform for both new and established producers to put their own spin on the grime sound. It fosters a community spirit within the scene, casting the net to potentially unheard producers and bringing people together through the medium of music.

There are many other DJs, producers and artists putting out quality content through the medium of online radio. The point is that, grime is an underground genre, and for it to continue to live on means that its unique points of interest need to be strengthened. Radio on its own doesn’t garner instant success, but mix it with regular releases (both physical and digital), high quality video content and regular events up and down the country, and you have the makings of a sustainable genre that has plenty of things to engage with.

Posted by:Ryan Moss

I'm the sole founder, editor and writer for The Art Of Grime. I love grime and want to push all the sick artists doing things at the moment.

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