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Good Grime Music (2005-10): Taking Back the Scene

Jonathan Rimmer itcherGrime’s transition from an exclusively London-based art form to an international phenomenon remarkably took little over a decade. Though commonly confused with UK hip-hop, grime has developed a distinct, self-sufficient culture in itself. The late 2000s saw emcees such as Wiley and Dizzee Rascal infiltrate the mainstream, but it was movements in the underground that would help the scene ultimately evolve. ~ Jonathan Rimmer

From Pirate Radio to the Pirate Bay

It’s funny how western culture has changed in only ten years, thanks to technology. The music industry nearly collapsed trying to wrestle with illegal downloading and struggled to adapt to the changing landscape. Do you remember LimeWire, for example? Of course you do.

Grime was born quite literally in the underground, with emcees and producers initially getting their buzz from pirate radio stations. As a genre and movement, it represented everything that the industry hated: it was abrasive, energetic, and lyrically street-oriented.

While some artists earned record deals and were encouraged to water down their sound, dozens more continued carrying the grime torch. Here are five such artists.

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Energetic Grime Recommendations

Macabre Unit

Essential Album: ‘6 Feet Below Sound 2: Buried Alive’ (2007)

Let’s just say that I roll with a school of piranhas // Time to eat you or get stripped starkers, left as a carcass // Don’t claim to be more nasty than Marcus…

Despite not being as well-known as their London peers, Bedford crew, Macabre Unit, embodied grime at its most engrossing. Their diss-heavy style is a solid introduction to grime, emphasising energetic flows and ominous bass-heavy production over everything else.

In fact, mixtapes like ‘6 Feet Below Sound’ were more like extended cypher sessions than actual albums. It was all a bit rushed and spontaneous rather than professional sounding, which is arguably what made it so thrilling.

Uninitiated listeners may be tempted to just look up recognised emcees’ most celebrated albums, but that doesn’t necessarily work with grime. Macabre Unit are a raw example of why you’re better checking the free tapes and mixes for a pure representation of what the sound is about.

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Durrty Goodz

Essential Album: ‘Axiom EP’ (2007)

I’m talking Movement, Kano, Wiley, Rascal, Bashy, Sway and J2k // Let’s stick them up, put them aerials up and let’s take back the scene…

It’s odd that Durrty Goodz isn’t more widely revered – after all, very few emcees clash with Wiley and come out on top. After leaving his record label in 2005, his career basically came to a standstill after being arrested (and acquitted) for murder, but he bounced back with – arguably – his best work, ‘Axiom’.

While the likes of Kano and Lethal Bizzle were collaborating with pop stars, Goodz was holding down the fort for grime and railing against the industry in the process. Tracks like ‘License to Skill’ and ‘Take Back the Scene’ were just the type of angry, almost political diatribes that the underground was crying out for.

In its short history, grime has been home to numerous rhyming styles and flows. Goodz could not only imitate them all but was a sensational emcee in his own right.

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Tempa T

Essential Album: ‘Next Hype EP’ (2009)

Smash all your plates from your rack // Clear all of your kids’ toys // Clear all of your CD rack // Won’t get none of your CD’s back…

Whereas Durrty Goodz’ music had a degree of depth, East London’s Tempa T was all about adrenaline. As well as being a physical force of nature, Tempz’ vocal style was aggressive and highly exuberant, pummelling the listener into submission.

Working with legendary producers like Darq E Freaker and DJ Magic in the late 2000s, Tempz found the ideal beats for his maniacal style. ‘Next Hype’, an almost comical depiction of street violence (attacking people flying kites for example), might not have won him mainstream radio play but it did give him a strong underground following.

For all Tempz was aggressive, his wordplay and sense of humour set the tone for a new style of emceeing that became popular in the 2010s. Today, everyone knows the words to Stormzy’s ‘Shut Up’; in 2009, everybody knew the words to ‘Next Hype’.

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Flow Dan

Essential Album: ‘Original Dan’ (2009)

City of sin that we’re living in // Some fall by the wayside, some can’t swim //
Badman a badman, fool is a fool // I ain’t following the rules when I do my ting…

It’s easy to forget that grime originally emerged from UK garage and Drum & Bass; flowing over 2-step rhythms was part of the foundations. Flow Dan has been representing these elements since the start.

He named himself appropriately judging by his incredible rhyming dexterity, but there was more than just speed to Dan’s relentless approach. His bassy vocal tone and trademark ‘rah’ created an atmosphere just on its own, perfectly conveying his badman persona and chilling storytelling.

It’s probably why Dan has been dubstep producers’ emcee of choice over the years, appearing with Modestep, Kahn and The Bug to name a few. As an early associate of Wiley, Skepta and Dizzee Rascal, his reputation in grime is just as impressive.

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Neckle Camp

Essential Album: ‘Straight Necklin’ (2006)

Don’t eat me, rude boy, man’s a veggy // When I come around, everybody, they start to get edgy…

Like hip-hop, grime’s always been full of cliques and they tend to overlap. Consequently, the likes of Slew Dem, Roll Deep and Ruff Sqwad (all spelt correctly might I add) frequently collaborated in the 2000s.

Neckle Camp were one such clique before the inevitable fall-outs and ‘beef’. Featuring no less than seven members, Neckle Camp produced some of the most furious and hard-hitting grime of the decade at a time when many emcees were signing up for 360 record deals.

Leading member, Jammer, pioneered Lord of the Mics, a battle rap platform for grime, reflecting his commitment to keeping grime combative. Neckle Camp is about as combative as grime gets.

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Lords of the Mic

Due to the nature of grime, there are countless other emcees and producers that you could pick for a list like this. Want to discover new grime? Literally just follow the list of features on a typical album and you’ll unearth about a hundred more emcees.

Who else would you recommend?

Comment below.

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