I Love Grime
Released: Monday 1 October 2012
Grime. Is there any genre with such an appropriate name? For grime truly is filthy, raw, at times depraved and at other times simply brilliant. You know the story: grime supposedly developed on the pirate stations on the estates of Bow, East London, the bastard child of an illicit affair between garage, UK hip hop, dancehall/bashment, jungle and a variety of other UK dance sub-genres.
And before we knew it, it was the late 00s and grime had reared its ugly head, quickly moving from the underground to the mainstream (despite, somewhat predictably, getting diluted on the way). In 2012, grime isn't exactly dead, but it's most famous protagonists now make dire 'pop-grime', and UK electronic music has - as always - quickly moved on through dubstep, road-rap, funky and beyond.
Probably a good time, then, for Rinse to release this compilation, simply entitled I Love Grime. Its 52 tracks cover early and later releases and a range of styles and artists, from stars like Dizzee Rascal and Chipmunk (luckily the latter only offers one squeaky verse) to the unpolished, aggressive talent of lesser known MCs. And it's apt that Rinse should be offering this collection; as one of London's largest pirate radio stations, they played a large part in pioneering the genre. In fact, Rinse didn't go legit until 2010, but has quickly grown from strength to strength, boasting a record label and rooster than includes Katy B.
The old influences that made grime what it is are evidenced in various tracks: dancehall (Tubby T's 'Tales of the Hood'); garage (So Solid Crew's 'Oh No (Sentimental Things)' and numerous other lyrical references to old-skool garage tunes); as well as newer influences (dubsteppers Magnetic Man and Skream make appearances). The style of the MCs delivery is a complex blend of Jamaican toasting, US and UK rap, and garage and drum 'n' bass rapid-fire chat.
For artists like Jammer, this results in a bizarre style which can only be described as shouting; for others monotone deadpan or the habit of rhyming words with…. the same words. But it's artists like Kano and D Double E (from Newham Generals) who stand head and shoulders above the rest. On 'Ps & Qs', Kano shows a lyrical dexterity and subtle vocal inflections which draw the listener in and proves that the best MCs don't need to shout to get their point across.
D Double E is a veteran with a unique vocal tone and delivery, yet he is only just going solo. Apparently, Dizzee looked up to him as a youngster, and has now signed him to his Dirtee Stank imprint. D Double E's importance in the scene is apparent by the sheer number of tracks he appears on, from the light-hearted gimmicks of 'Street Fighter Riddim' to the menacing violence of 'Bluku! Bluku!'. On the latter, his future label boss Mr Rascal makes an appearance, proving that, despite the fluffy dance-pop he is now known for, he can still 'go hard'. Dizzee's 'I Luv You' from his first album, Boy In Da Corner, also reminds scene snobs he can still spit venom like bullets.
I Love Grime is a comprehensive journey through the classic and the contemporary, the mainstream and the underground, nicely mixed by Spyro and Sian Anderson, who manage to keep things banging without mixing too intrusively. Overall, this is a pretty good representation of a scene for which 'gritty' and 'urban' are pathetic, euphemistic understatements. From the raw misogyny of P Money & Blacks' 'Boo You' to the defiant swagger of Manga's 'No MC' and the riot-inducing energy of Lethal Bizzle's 'Pow (Forward)' (not only was this the soundtrack to the student protests, apparently many clubs have signs on DJ booths which simply state 'Don't Play Pow'), this compilation shows that grime certainly isn't for the faint-hearted.
As the title suggests, you either love it or hate it. If you like eloquent lyricism or clean polished production, all you can expect from this is alienation. Plus grime is very area-specific (I don't pick-out any non-London accents), very male (no female MCs appear although there are some around) and a large chunk of it is beyond aggressive. But that's what I find so appealing. I Love Grime is angry and testosterone-soaked, but its energy and drive is insatiable. And its street swagger makes some US gangster-rappers look like camp Bieber tribute acts. Quite simply, grime has balls the size of watermelons, and although as an audience member looking at these monstrosities might be horrifying, it's hard not to also feel impressed and jealous. If the wind changed while listening to this, your face would be permanently stuck moulded into your ugliest, most satisfying, scowling screwface.
Although often poorly produced, the beats which grime producers utilise are perfectly suited to the raw energies of the MCs and their portrayal of hard-living on the streets of East London. It's telling that even the instrumentals on this album (such as Outlaw Break's 'Nissi', Spooky's 'Spartan' and Champion's 'Crystal Meth') have just as much menacing swagger. Even a brief appearance by smarmy-easy-listening-shit-face Ed Sheeran cannot put these guys down. Grime is still an important, unstoppable force in the development of UK dance culture, and I Love Grime has represented it perfectly.