Wednesday, May 10, 2006
The Grime Class of 2006: looking a lot like the class of 2005, 2004 etc. L-R: The Streets, Lady Sov & Plan B (sorry, Kano)
The last time I wrote on the Grime music scene, I waxed enthusiastically about Anglo-Ghanaian MC Andrew "Sway" Dasafo and Vol. 1 of Vice Records' Run the Road grime compilation series. A year later, my excitement and interest in this music has cooled somewhat as various subgenres of American hip hop have started to come up with sonics and verbals that are as exotic and exciting as grime first was but which, while they might not appeal to traditionalists and purists, seem to be breaking their way through to become the new mainstream in commerical urban music.
In the meantime, what's the state of the UK grime scene in 2006? Well let me relay a story I heard from a very successful A&R/artist manager in the hip hop game about the much-feted Lady Sov and the now legendary-in-the-blogopshere audition for Jay-Z which led to her improbable signing to Def Jam (slightly paraphrased here since I heard this a while ago and have been meaning to post it for weeks since):
"That chick signed to Def Jam?! I was there that day when she was at Def Jam. She barely said a word and Jay kept begging her to kick a freestyle and she kept refusing. When she finally did she was terrible, I can't believe she got a deal." That pretty sums it up as far as grime's prospects in the US go and is a pretty accurate assessment of this chick too in my view. Outside of a couple bright moments on an mp3 or 12" here and there, I don't see what the fuss is all about. She hit one out the park one time on a fluke and got to sign to the Yankees?! What part of the game is that?!
For those of you under the illusion that Lady Sov is the future of hip hop or urban music though, disavow yourself of that notion right now cos it just ain't gonna happen unless something very drastic happens with the direction music is going. Of course, I'm open to other opinions on this. Just remember the cautionary tale of M.I.A. though.
Related: Lady Sov "Random" - the Adidas Hoodie Remix featuring Mizz Beats, Skepta, JME, Ears, Jammer & Baby Blue / video
Vol. 2 of Vice's well-regarded Run the Road droppped recently too. Like I said above, I liked the first one pretty much but was pretty bored by the new one. The only track that stood out to me was Plan B's "Sick 2 Def" and it's not even grimey sounding - he's rapping over an acoustic guitar! Not a great sign for a compilation that's supposed to be highlighting the best of a still-developing, new musical genre. Don't take my word for it though, listen for yourself.
Related: Check out the Run the Road the MySpace site / the web site / Plan B's MySpace site / web site / the not-bad "Get Set" by Low Deep & Kano, featuring Ghetto, Big Seac, Demon & Doctor.
But the reigning king of the UK grime/rap scene The Streets has also just (or is about to) dropped his new album, The Hardest Way to Earn an Easy Living which will be the true barometer of whether this scene has the legs to go the distance in the US or not. Young Skinner has already developed a fanbase over here across his two albums and has the critical acclaim to back it up. His debut album Original Pirate Material was in my mind a pretty incredible work of art but he lost the plot with the follow-up A Grand Don't Come For Free which was horrific sounding.
Unfortunately, he doesn't seemed to have got any closer to regaining it on this follow-up album. The Hardest Way comes across to me like a meta exercise by him ruminating on having become a major pop star (at least in the UK, that is) which I guess is more honest than him pretending to still be a council estate-dwelling, spliffed & largered-up, Brit Every-yout' with feelings (that being left to the Arctic Monkeys nowdays I would imagine). BTW: not to put him on front er... street, but I wonder if he cleared the samples of The Animals' "The House of the Rising Sun" on the album's title track and The Beatles' "Let It Be" on "Never Went to Church" that go uncredited in the album liner notes?
Related: Lemon Red and Music for Robots had links to track by track "video commentaries" (or something?) on the album last week. I watched one of them, said "What the f-ck is this?" and subsequently regretted losing that three minutes of my life but maybe someone else will find them useful/interesting.
More grime-related links:
- Statik makes Grindie (grime + indie) mixtapes.
- The Streets tours with Lady Sovereign in the US this summer (June).
- Still Listen has links to some Mitchell Bros. and Lady Sov mp3's.