JME & friends brought the heat to London’s Outernet this past weekend. The occasion in question was Grime MC FM, which initially started as a form of guerrilla marketing for his 2019 album Grime MC. Early incarnations of the event featured JME and others pull up on random spots across the capital, armed only with decks, mics, speakers and their bars. The sets were live-streamed to Twitch, a modern take on the traditional grime format. I remember watching intently in Madrid, nursing a hangover in one of the worst Airbnbs I’ve ever stayed in.
Eventually, the on-street sets moved to proper venues. JME was supposed to bring the show to numerous festivals in 2020, but our old friend Covid put a stop to that. What a palaver. I’d made plans to buy tickets for Lovebox that year, and half of the decision was based on the fact the show would be there.
But as events have returned, so has Grime MC FM. The show has featured at Fabric, EartH and Koko, with HERE @ Outernet the arena for the latest. The venue describes itself as an ‘immersive entertainment district’, which is pretty accurate. After my ticket was scanned, I entered the queue, enveloped inside a spacious LED structure which changed colour as one ad moved to the next. Inside, the emcees performed in front of a vivid backdrop. It began with Risky Roadz-style artwork, later switching to an edit of the old DVD logo that used to bounce around the screen when the TV got left on standby. Everything about the venue and production felt apt for an artist like JME.
JME and Bossman kicked off the night, spraying ruthlessly until Capo Lee and Big Zuu stepped up to provide the crowd with a lightning bolt of bars. From there, duos passed the mic back and forth. Merky Ace and Lay-Z spent a hefty chunk of time flowing effortlessly, proving that all those hours on radio makes an emcee razor-sharp.
Anticipation would creep upwards when a familiar emcee made their way on stage. Scratchy and Flowdan wandered out nonchalantly, then got the mic and turned the crowd upside down. Elsewhere, Duppy, Renz, Manga, Jammz, President T, Footsie, Blay Vision, Chronik, Subten and D Double E all featured too. The latter spat some classic bars, showing why he’s revered by fans and fellow emcees alike. It was grime in its purest form. A democratic expression where young emcees stood on the same platform as veterans. Reputations melted away, and only one thing mattered: bars. How well you can deliver them, how well you can navigate the beat and how well you can keep the energy going.
Logan Sama and Maximum – DJs on the night – spun the right tunes, but crucially didn’t give out many reloads. Grime shows of this ilk can often suffer from reload happy DJs. While they can be exciting, too many can ruin the flow. Grime is at its best when emcees can dip in and out at different times, a constant flow of energy from start to finish.
Events like Grime MC FM give the genre context. Grime is club music at heart, and whether that’s a stage show setting or an instrumental-based party, you need to see it in person to feel its full power. It allows the artists to present the music in its own world, free from internet narratives or sport-like comparisons to other genres. Plus, it’s fun. My neck was aching ten minutes in from the rate at which my head was nodding. You can’t put a price on a feeling like that.