7 Times UK Rappers Shut It Down On Grime

Words: Yemi Abiade

Despite constant online chatter and debate about its fluctuating presence on the present day of the Black British music scene, grime remains the reason why everybody’s here, the focal point and DNA of a milieu blossoming with each passing day. Over 20 years removed from its inception, with iconic moment after iconic moment, the genre continues to grow without compromise, holding the distinction of laying the groundwork for the genres after it to follow, from Afroswing to drill, meaning it will live long in the memory of fans who grew up on it and artists who are now able to thrive because of it.

It’s common knowledge that many of our legends got their start in grime, from Dizzee and Kano to new-age icons Stormzy and AJ Tracey, but what if you were told about the odd occasions that would-be outsiders hopped on the sound? When road rappers decided to forgo their trademark flows and got skippy with it, even for a brief moment? When young MCs far removed from grime’s home of London used the genre to jettison a successful pop-rap career? Yes, these sightings are rare and, like with a legendary Pokemon, if you blink too hard you miss the moment, or may not even know it existed. Luckily, we’re on-hand to remind you of those instances UK rappers tested their powers on a sound known to test the pens of MCs, with shelly results.

Scroll down for some of our favourite moments from this corner of the game.

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Giggs — “Take You Out” (2008)

Yes, you’re reading it right. Giggs, an icon of the scene and pioneer of what would become known as road rap in the late 2000s, once tested the waters on grime. Choosing to spit over N.A.S.T.Y. Crew’s immortal 2003 posse cut, “Take You Out”, produced by Jammer, Hollowman gives the ominous beat time to breathe before descending, effortlessly skipping through with precision. Sounding as fresh on grime as any rugged and raw road rap riddim, it is a glorious one and done from a man associated with a genre that would often eclipse grime as the sound of the streets as the years rolled on.

Dave — “Thiago Silva” (2016)

By now, Dave’s turn on “Thiago Silva” is the stuff of legend. By then, the South Londoner was still fresh in the game having dropped his debut EP, Six Paths, not long before, very much steeped in UK rap and hip-hop. But his adeptness to grime was uncanny. Over 169’s refreshment of Prince Rapid’s iconic “Pied Piper” instrumental, Santan spun the track with the poise we’ve come to know him for, giving AJ Tracey—a seasoned grime MC at this point—a run for his money. So impactful was Dave’s performance that it would spark a moment in the limelight for a certain fan at the 2019 Glastonbury Festival. Powers.

Skrapz — ‘The Grime Tape’ (2006)

North West London legend Skrapz is best known for churning out road rap classics by repurposing iconic New York rap beats, the most famous being his turn on The Notorious B.I.G.’s “One More Chance” on his 2014 mixtape 80s Baby. But long before, in 2006, as a member of esteemed grime collective SLK alongside Flirta D, Van Damage and Lady Envy, Skrapsta—as he was known—was shelling grime radio sets. This clinic from this forgotten era may be a surprise to some, given his smooth and slick delivery these days, but those who lived through it will know grime is in Skrapz’s DNA.

Aitch — “​Grime Freestyle” (2016)

Manchester’s own Aitch is one of the most visible UK rappers in the game right now, but he can thank grime for his launch up the ranks. Here, from a freestyle session for One Way TV in 2016, the then 16-year-old rides a grime beat with minimal effort, barely breaking a sweat as he skips with pungent wordplay. Aitch starting out in grime makes perfect sense, given the pinpoint flows and delivery he carries to this day, which were no doubt seasoned by sets like these.

Cadet — “​Grime Freestyle” (2007)

The dearly departed Cadet was as slick with the bars as they come, more known for his introspective meticulousness over UK rap. So much so that, three years after his passing, fans still feel his skills were underrated. It may come as no shock, then, that he once tested his skills on grime. Dated during the halcyon days of London’s Gipset clique—of which Cadet, his cousin Krept and friend Konan were part—this freestyle from 2007 shows the then 17-year-old in a tongue-twisting frenzy, indicative of a time when Gipset were more involved in grime. Cadet had immense talent from day one.

Youngs Teflon — “​Grime’s Dead Freestyle 3” (2015)

When you think of road rap and the legends that emerged from the era of the early 2010s, Youngs Teflon is a name at the top of the list. Every so often, though, he would trade the cinematic soundscapes for some vintage grime, as seen in his “Grime’s Dead” freestyle series spanning seven years. As shelly as each one is, the third instalment is special, as Tef chooses to rhyme over Mikey J’s iconic “Mic Check” instrumental, speeding up his flows while delivering punchlines for days. Transporting his trademark rags-to-riches story to the icy confines of grime, the results are just as devastating as the South Londoner proves himself as a talent beyond genre.

Blade Brown — “2003 Freestyle” (2003)

Way before his Bags & Boxes series, collaborating with Giggs and before he became the prototypical road rapper, Blade Brown was holding his own on grime sets. This 2003 set on Delite FM goes a long way in displaying his range as a lyricist, even before he started dropping projects. Spitting with crystal-clear clarity over a raucous beat, this set makes you wonder about an alternate world where Blade took over the grime scene. One can dream...

Posted on April 29, 2022