The majority of the grime class of 2015 have now become fully-fledged artists. Jammz has cemented himself as an underground champion; while AJ Tracey has broke barriers commercially, even if his sound has changed over the past few years. Of course, there are plenty more emcees from this category who have gone on to achieve different things, listing them all would keep us here for ages.
Big Zuu sits in the middle. He’s added to his sound rather than make wholesale changes, and while he isn’t selling out crazy tours, TV shows, radio slots and podcasts mean that he has managed to eke out a name beyond the grime scene.
Since he came onto the scene in the radio boom of 2015, his musical output has developed. In this article, I would like to chart that evolution through ten tracks.
Image via Facebook
‘Who’ features on Zuu’s debut EP “Big Who.” A world away from interviewing the likes of Jordan Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and hosting a residency show on 1Xtra, the release of his debut project was low key, available to download for free via SBTV. That didn’t stop the EP from being exciting, though, as it was the first extended bit of music from one of the most promising young emcees on the radio at the time. On ‘Who’ – the second track from the EP – Zuu calls out all the old-head emcees whose credentials don’t match up to their bars, in the process immortalising a selection of signature lyrical calling cards that he often used on sets in that era.
Shelling Dis Year (ft MicTy)
‘Shelling Dis Year’ is from both Zuu’s debut EP and the “MicTy x Big Zuu” EP. The latter, a collaborative record between the two artists, saw them enter the studio to create a record in twenty-four hours. This period was busy for the then up and coming crop of emcees, as a lot of them released debut projects, making their first attempts at translating all the hype garnered on the radio into a tangible product. The artists in this group had a close connection – Big Zuu and AJ Tracey are cousins – and the emcees all met on different sets, coming together to try and push their sound as far as they could. ‘Shelling Dis Year’ is a vision of how weird grime can sound. The beat – consisting of off-key melodies and barely featuring any drums – provides the perfect platform for Zuu and Ty to sum up what they were best known for at the time. Spitting fire bars with a healthy disregard for who or what came before them.
While the modern-day Big Zuu has a strong sense of melody among all the hard bars, early Big Zuu hadn’t yet found that balance in his music. His flow was trigger happy, punchlines and reload bars flying off in all different directions. ‘Shouting Song’ is a loosie that he dropped via SoundCloud, an irreverent message to the critics that slammed the loud-mouthed flow and super gassed energy he brought to sets in that time. He’s not quite on the level of say, Discarda, on ‘Shouting Song’. But he sounds ferocious, running down anyone who isn’t on board with his lyrical style with ease.
Warm Up Sessions – SBTV
This is a recorded freestyle which you can’t buy or stream, but the video is still an important milestone in Zuu’s musical development. The premise of the freestyle was for Big Zuu to open up about his life growing up and lend some of his thoughts on the state of society. Here, he touches on what life was like growing up as a kid in West London while his mum worked hard to make ends meet. As the freestyle unfolds, he speaks about his experiences of racism at a young age and notes how the system places certain people in disadvantaged starting points from an early age. Grime has always been political. Many of the creators have grown up in tough circumstances and they understand the fact that politics extends into everyday life, rather than a game of sport played in the corridors of parliament buildings. To frame this freestyle as Big Zuu suddenly experiencing a light-bulb moment of enlightenment would be patronising, as he is talking about his lived experience. Even so, the themes he touched on in this freestyle would become a key part of his later output, and his genuine desire to educate his fans and help people in need would play out in his music and beyond.
Zuu released ‘Kaleidoscope’ released a few months after the SBTV freestyle. The track follows the same introspective line as the freestyle, as Zuu talks about the potential for him and his peers around him to create industries based on their talents. He passes on more valuable knowledge to his fans, noting the importance of hard work and staying away from distractions that could lead them down a negative road. As the man himself says in the track: “I ain’t tryna preach to the youth / I’m tryna teach them a view.” It’s a line that sums up this track, the last track and his future material very well. As Zuu has evolved from hyped spitter to knowledge sharer, he doesn’t preach a dogmatic message to his fan base. His message highlights the inequalities in the political climate of the UK, while also imploring the people that listen to take stock in their gifts. Overall, he lets his fans know they can exceed the structural limitations placed on them by society.
Hit page two for the rest of the article
2 thoughts on “Ten tracks that show the evolution of Big Zuu’s music”