Owlybeats x Razor – Fuego

Owlybeats’ debut album “Nocturnal” was released in May via Slimzos Recordings. The record featured a who’s-who of the scene’s talented underground artists lending their vocal to nine tracks, while ‘Strings and Things’ and ‘James Bond’ – the two remaining tunes – were solely instrumental. ‘Fuego’ – featuring Razor – was in constant rotation for me this year. Built around a spritely lead riff, a set of ruthless clap patterns and a blistering vocal, ‘Fuego’ distils the instant, nerve-affecting quality of grime into a powerful, sub-three-minute thrill ride that’s hard to ignore.

Manga Saint Hilare x Lewi B – Community Guidelines

With grief comes the awareness of mortality: the realisation that our time is short, our loved ones will pass away, and that ultimately, death is part of life. It’s something that Manga Saint Hilare deals with on ‘Community Guidelines’, the opening track of “Glow In The Dark”, the project he released with Lewi B this year. He recounts how the release of 2020’s “Make It Out Alive” coincided with the death of his grandma, musing on life, legacy, and the anxieties of following one’s personal journey as the track unfolds. Manga’s willingness to embrace the subject matter other emcees may leave off the record is what makes ‘Community Guidelines’ so good; and why grime fans continue to get behind him with each release.

M.I.C ft Jawnino & JME – K*rn (prod. By Nammy Wams)

“You Can Achieve Anything” was a statement. By playing with established tropes and experimenting with sound, M.I.C and Nammy Wams created a record at the vanguard of underground music. While track five of the EP — ‘The Only Perfect Place On Earth’ — initially caught my ear, ‘K*rn’ was in my rotation toward the back end of 2021. Nammy Wams’ mechanised synths burrow in the brain’s deepest crannies, while ten-ton drum patterns give the track ample low-end power. M.I.C spits about the U.K’s poor treatment of black kids; Jawnino takes a healthy disdain to grime’s past, and JME closes the track with a thundering guest verse. ‘K*rn’ is a pressurised club banger ready to blow.

Bruza – Deal Wiv It (prod. By D.O.K)

“Deal Wiv It” marked a welcome return from one of grime’s most distinct voices. While the electrifying ‘Stop It’ could’ve well made this list, the EP’s title track ‘Deal Wiv It’ stood out the most. Bruza grapples with what it means to be British in 2021, wearing his cockney identity with pride and batting away the people that would rather see him and his peers reduced to a stereotype. In lesser hands, the subject matter could end up dry, but Bruza’s pinpoint delivery and D.O.K’s tumbling, ska-inspired production make ‘Deal Wiv It’ fit for a knees-up, a middle finger to the establishment and an all-round cracking tune in one fell swoop.

Snowy ft. FLYD4T & Kyeza – TEAM (prod. By JiKay, MNKN & Milan)

Snowy brought it all together on “SIRIUS”, a six-track record made up of piercing bass and rapid flows. ‘TEAM’ was the standout, a classic crew cut where the three emcees — Snowy, FLYD4T and Kyeza — leave everything at the recording booth door and go ham with the bars. It’s packed full of barbed wire diss lyrics, breathless emceeing, and bass sounds from beneath. A version of grime done at the bleeding edge.

Elf x Darkness – Bad Breed

Elf looked next to breakthrough back in 2015. Life takes hold, though, and he took an extended hiatus from music in the years since. His output this year was defined by collaborations with Darkness, Treble Clef, and B:Thorough. None of his sauce lost, and plenty of great tunes to boot. ‘Bad Breed’ was one of those.  A sun-drenched, UKG banger sizzling with stories from Elf’s youth, nostalgia, and the looming pressures faced by young Black kids from the U.K. All of this was gift-wrapped with an infectious hook, balancing real-life grit with the type of carefree happiness garage music demands you to feel.

Ten Dixon – Virgo Feelings (prod. By Danio)

Ten Dixon is known to grime fans for his delivery. You can hear him at his hyped-up best on a track like ‘Circular Freestyle‘, released this year and more than worthy of repeat listens. On ‘Virgo Feelings’, he keeps the flow pattern, rerouting the caustic delivery at the government rather than rival emcees. In the track’s opening moments, Ten wonders if it’s really all worth it, reminding himself there’s hard work to be done and more money to be made. ‘Virgo Feelings’ makes slight tweaks to a formula, resulting in a track that gains intensity from its inward-looking approach.

Jammz – Dark & Light (prod. By Jammz)

Jammz took the considered approach with ‘Dark & Light’. Musing on duality, perspective, and a consistent approach to the grind, he delivered a reflective track with a minimal beat, keeping all the attention on his cadence and delivery. Sometimes, you don’t need to go all out to deliver impact, and Jammz proved that and then some with this one.

Capo Lee, Shorty, Frisco & JME – More

Collaboration is one of grime’s many driving forces, and this year, the genre was blessed with two prestige cast, multi-emcee projects. “Norf Face”, the first of two, brought together JME, Capo Lee, Frisco and Shorty for a nine-track record of speaker breaking grime. ‘More’ was the standout. Each emcee delivered high-voltage bars, charging Silencer’s high-speed, string-led instrumental with reflections on how far they’ve come, the importance of collectivity and upping their cash flow. Top-level emcees working together in this manner make grime exciting, so let’s hope it’s something that continues in the new year.

Mez ft. Wiley, Hitman Hyper, Swarvo, Flirta D, Discarda & Jammer – Bongo (prod. By General Courts)

Rally tunes are intrinsic to grime. Some are stone-cold classics of the genre, while others can feel like an attempt to capture an energy that was never present in the first place. ‘Bongo’ bucks the latter entirely. Taken from Mez’ “One Uncle” EP, the tune features seven emcees, each delivering a concentrated energy flash of bars over General Courts’ mangled instrumental. Grime’s competitive edge comes to the fore, here, and in truth, it’s hard to pick who had the best bars; but special mention to Swarvo’s ‘forearm’ lyric, which had me constantly reloading and wanting to go crazy every time I heard it.

J Beatz ft. Nico Lindsay, Micofcourse & Darkos Strife

J Beatz’ ‘Top Technique’ brought together the unstoppable combo of Nico Lindsay and Darkos Strife, and if that wasn’t already enough, mind-melting flows from Micofcourse. Built around an icy instrumental with concrete thick bass lines, each emcee left no pocket unfulfilled, providing a breath-taking display of lyrical prowess.

sbk – haters (prod. By Black Mayo)

SBK’s been making music for so long it’s easy to forget that he’s still so early in his musical journey. This year, the young emcee released tunes alongside JME & Shorty, also venturing into different genres with the trap-influenced track ‘SNITCH’. ‘haters’ felt like a middle point between the grime he’s made his name on and the more experimental route he’s taken. The beat, melodic and subtle, served as a launchpad for sbk to clap back at his doubters and revel in the independent success he’s built for himself.

Shay D ft. P Money – Slice of the Pie (prod. By Filthy Gears)

Shay D makes grinding sound fun. A skilled technical rapper with the charisma to match, her 2021 album “Speaking In Tongues” balanced hype-filled tracks with introspective lyrical content, a cohesive mix of grime, rap and hip-hop. ‘Slice of the Pie’ — featuring P Money — is ever-rising, as the two emcees dispatch poison dart bars over a thunderous Filthy Gears production.

Y U QT ft. Riko Dan – Dancehall Damager

Y U QT’s “Dancehall Damager” EP brought Riko Dan and Logan — two generations of patois-influenced grime emcees — over a couple of 2021’s heaviest UKG productions. The title track, ‘Dancehall Damager’, is a five-minute, brain rewiring club tune, with Riko dropping verse after verse of crazy lyrics in his inimitable delivery.

Chowerman ft. Luciferian & Charlotte Plank – Reflecting (prod. By Kami-O)

Chowerman’s “ANTITHESIS” stands as his best project to date, with the Essex spitter delivering brash grime flows over a range of instrumentals. ‘Reflecting’, featuring Luciferian and Charlotte Plank, had introspective barring from the two emcees, signed off with a melodic hook from Plank and a deft beat from Kami-O.

Fork and Knife x Griz-O – My Kinda Setting

‘My Kinda Setting’ is the type of hybrid club banger that Bristol label Durkle Disco do so well. Fork and Knife’s beat is all rumbling bleeps and clicks, teeming with rhythm and set perfectly for Griz-O to chat hooks and flows that melt the speakers.

Jammz x Mayhem – Sparring (prod. By Gesher)

‘Sparring’ features on “The Avengers LP”, the second multi-emcee album to come from the grime scene this year. It’s Jammz and Mayhem NODB on the microphone, Gesher on production, and a whole load of crazy flows, breakneck spitting, and undeniable energy when the play button hits.

Mez – Screaming Version (prod. By Grandmixxer)

The vocal versions of Grandmixxer’s ‘Screaming’ saw a digital release this year after spending time in the hands of a select few. Mez’ version sees him spray clip after clip of bars at a relentless pace, with the screams of the beat only adding to the intensity of the tune.

GHS – Leng Dem (prod. By GHS)

GHS’ ‘Leng Dem’ took the simple approach. A minimal beat with a prodding synth, bare-bones percussion and most importantly, a set of heavyweight bars, flows and hooks. ‘Leng Dem’ sticks in the brain long after it’s finished playing.

Taleko ft. Discarda, Bruno Kroz, KBrum & AKA AFK – Cara Do Grime

‘Cara Do Grime’ is a vocal version of Taleko’s ‘Malvadao Anthem’. Here, the skippy instrumental is blessed with vocals from British and Brazilian emcees, each one providing hype flows in the process.

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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