The evolution of grime is always a hotly debated subject among the scene. Last year, it felt as though every other day the discussion of whether grime is dead was being hurled out on the timeline, and eventually that morphed into ways the sound of grime could evolve. It’s come back around as we take our first steps into the next decade, mainly started by younger and less established artists in the scene. The consensus seemed to be that the sound of grime isn’t moving forward enough, with producers and MCs sticking to safe tropes or coming out with ideas that aren’t interesting enough to listen to. Wiley even got involved, proclaiming that in order for the scene to evolve the artists had to leave behind the nostalgia and trap influence – people seemed to take that in with excitement, especially when he announced he was looking for beats that sound like they were made in 2020.

It’s important to note that music wise, grime is healthy. The fact that it still exists – on a global scale – despite nightclubs closing down, years of state rejection, youth funding being cut to ribbons and brands taking up the space where people would create things independently is amazing, a testament to just how strong underground culture can be. Opportunities to discuss how something can potentially change for the better are important, though. Critical thought is how scenes move forward – and for grime, it’s not as though wholesale changes need to be made, more different ways of operating.

We look to our MCs to transmit energy – through their bars, their flow or their general swagger. They provide lyrics that validate people’s experiences. When someone hears a certain line, they can hear someone who has gone through something similar and instantly relate. It can be about anything. After all, when a perfectly crafted bar lands over the right instrumental, the full body response it can elicit is something that not many genres can rival. Over the years many MCs have effortlessly telegraphed the state of their area, providing biting anecdotes that the commentariat could only dream of, all while injecting moments of black humour that can stand toe to toe with some of the funniest comedy of years gone by. At it’s best grime emceeing is sharp, cutting through the speakers with pointed wit. It becomes boring when emcees choose to make songs solely about emceeing. It’s understandable, grime lives on the airwaves with its orators crafting punchlines from nowhere; it lives in a low ceiling club at 3am, all sorts of mutated vocal noises pouring out of the speakers. If the goal is to get a wicked reload and prove you’re the best at your craft, why wouldn’t you then take that to song form and prove you’re the best over three minutes?

There is only so far that can go. Artists from a whole host of scenes – metal, punk, pop, noise, R&B – spend hours in the studio, slog through press days and perform to any number of people, sometimes for weeks on end. Forgive me for using the most mainstream example – but if Taylor Swift dropped an album full of tracks with lyrics about her hitting the best notes in her school choir days, she’d be laughed out of the building, and rightly so. Thought goes a long way. Everyone has a story or a concept in their head, and emcees have the ability to tell said stories in a way that most can’t. It would be interesting to see them pull back the curtain a little bit, expressing a vulnerability that would no doubt make for interesting listening and endear fans even more. Obviously, we as fans and listeners can’t demand artists to splurge their most inner thoughts and become a lifeless vehicle for our listening pleasure, they might not feel comfortable with that. It’s ultimately up to the artist to decide what is for public consumption, but the slightest fourth wall breaking and entry into the thoughts of our favourite emcees wouldn’t go amiss

Beat makers provide the spark. The art of lyricism is something, but it wouldn’t exist without the canvas underneath. It would be interesting to see producers cast the net a bit wider, and sample from other types of music. There are reams of music that has come out all over the world, and snippets of records across the globe can be mutated into a grime instrumental to make something no one has ever heard before. Last years ‘London To Addis‘ had the right idea, taking samples of music from Ethiopia and handing it over to some top tier producers to rework into grime records. The compilation also spawned the track ‘Don’t Lack‘, a vocal version of ‘Addis Ababa’ featuring Cadell, Sense & Delusion. The resources for something like that are obviously hefty, but through crate digging and scouring record shops for odd records, something in the same vein can be achieved – all it takes is a widening of the imagination.

It doesn’t have to be records from far flung places, either. A platform like Bandcamp lets musicians from different genres all over the world sell their music directly to their fans, and it’s possible to browse via genre tag. What is stopping a grime producer from looking in the jazz section, coming across a weird record with loads of cool licks and sampling some of them in their own work? Sample clearance comes in to it, of course, but it’s hard to imagine an independent artist not being happy to let another independent artist sample their work and turn it into something new.

There are lots of different avenues beat makers can go down. Colour a track in with lots of melody, make something that sounds abrasive or mix different genres with grime to create something totally new. It doesn’t have to be something that sounds dark or necessarily challenging to listen to, just something that goes off on the speakers and brings something new to the table. Oblig’s sets combine drill and grime, but drill seems to be looked at as the big bad wolf in comparison. There isn’t much difference sonically between the two, so a hybrid of those two styles with an MC spitting grime flows on top could be something that producers look into when trying to find new vibes.

Grime isn’t in need of a massive makeover, there are plenty of artists doing great things and pushing the sound in different ways. But as said earlier in the piece, the opportunity to discuss how things could be even better is important. The more that producers and MCs try new ideas and have a go at blending different musical aspects with grime, the more great music and vibes we get as listeners and fans.

Featured Image by Pexels from Pixabay

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.

One thought on “On Grime and… Evolution

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