No More Resurging: Grime Has Proven Its Power Ten Times Over 🌪️🌪️🌪️

Words: Yemi Abiade
Photography: Louis Friedman

So, here we are, in the throes of what is now the dawn of a new day for grime. Or, at least, that’s how it feels. From the return of legends to the ascendance of some of its hardest-working artists and personalities in the present day, laying groundwork in this new decade and the last, fresh impetus is behind a sound, movement and culture that has given so much to so many.

Grime is ground zero for modern UK Black music, and we rightfully mythologise its beginnings and overall journey. It’s a sound born from innovation from the have-nots of British society; young Black boys often demonised as threats to conventional life in Babylon. By all measures, it probably shouldn’t exist. But, between 2002-2007, through the efforts of lyrical upstarts like Wiley, Dizzee Rascal, Kano, D Double E, Lethal Bizzle, Skepta and Jme, and the efforts of Geeneus, DJ Slimzee, Logan Sama, Jammer and Risky Roadz to ensure these new-age MCs could be seen and heard on DVDs and pirate radio, an ecosystem festered among them that took Britain, and later the world, by storm—an ecosystem that threatened to consume itself as these stars, frustrated by the lack of monetary gain from their now-classic music, sought for the bright lights of the mainstream, releasing tracks and projects tinged with electro-pop sensibilities that flew in the face of the grit and raw of their origins.

Grime, to many, had sold out by the end of the 2000s, the scene gutted of all its quality. Enter the first ‘grime is dead’ chants that would mark a big chapter in its ongoing narrative. But by 2013, with Meridian Dan’s “German Whip”, the sound was to make a triumphant return to public imagination, led not only by the first generation but by new players like Stormzy, Novelist and AJ Tracey. Tracks like Skepta’s “That’s Not Me” and “Shutdown”, Stormzy’s “Shut Up” and Nov’s “1 Sec” with experimental producer Mumdance injected fresh energy, recognised beyond the borders of the UK. Grime was everywhere in 2015, and when members of the scene featured in Kanye West’s live performance of “All Day” at the Brit Awards that year, the genre arguably reached a new peak. Artists were empowered to make grime music again, while the sound itself enabled the incubation and development of adjacent UK genres like Afroswing and drill. But grime would slowly fall by the wayside; many would soon decry its ‘death’ once again by the end of the 2010s.

When measuring its success against the context of wider popular music, its influence has constantly fluctuated, but the true DIY spirit of grime meant it was always active. Whether it was the scenes in Birmingham, Manchester and beyond shelling down live sets and freestyle platforms like BL@CKBOX and P110, the sound entering its mellow era courtesy of producers like KwolleM, or new artists testing their skills, grime music and culture retained a pulse. This graft has enabled a new class of movers and shakers to now take the sound by the scruff of the neck. As Slim Charles says in The Wire, the game’s the same, just got more fierce.

Through the efforts of shelly MCs like Duppy, Renz, Kruz Leone, Kibo, Jawnino, Micofcourse, M.I.C., JayaHadADream, T.Roadz, Tia Talks, ThaFirst (the son of BBK’s Frisco, no less), Logan OLM and the rest (including old-timers So Large and Cadell, who remain active amongst the new-school), grime has carved out new faces and patterns while staying true to its beginnings. Projects such as namesbliss’ Lively Experience and Jawnino’s 40, both released in 2024, are glimpses into this potent wave, from the former’s chill vibrations to the latter’s more visceral, old-school grime grooves.

You can also find any number of these artists spitting on stations such as Rinse FM, Flex FM, NTS or Balamii with DJs like Oblig, Jack Dat, General Courts, Neffa-T, Just Jane or other modern stalwarts of grime. Or necessitating reloads at live events like Travs Presents, a spiritual successor to Sidewinder and Eskimo Dance. They’re capturing these moments visually just as Lord Of The Mics, JUST JAM and Risky Roadz did before them, to a Gen-Z audience that didn’t live through grime’s heyday. All of this amounts to a healthy scene that flies in the face of claims that the genre has no value in today's world.

Grime's new energy has also invigorated elements of its past. Most notably, Ruff Sqwad, one of the genre’s most celebrated collectives, made a fully-fledged return in 2024, with Rapid, Slix and Dirty Danger releasing the Flee FM EP, bringing their classic sound forward a couple of decades. Their GRM Radio performance later in the year—with a reunion with several OG members, including Tinchy Stryder—was a crowning moment of this new version. Meanwhile, grime was paid a great homage by one of UK music’s biggest names, Central Cee, who absconded his drill formula to go gully on “CC Freestyle”, a grime track through and through, utilising Flukes’ 2007 “I Have Nothing” instrumental.

Evidently, a major moment in grime is never too far away, because not only do artists coming up within the genre understand its value and contributions to our scene, but artists outside of the genre, too. Let’s not forget Flowdan taking grime to the Grammys and back, becoming the first from the scene to scoop the award for his work on Fred again.. and Skrillex’s “Rumble”. For a genre two decades deep, this represents unchartered territory.

Despite recent developments, the conversation around grime has always been a funny one. It’s treated with such extremity that rarely a middle ground exists. Either it’s alive or dead. Either it’s amid a ‘resurgence’ or is nowhere to be found. We’ve essentially been having the same conversation since the late 2000s, when some of the first gen tried their hand outside the sound. While there is credence to calling the 2013-2018 period a ‘resurgence’ or ‘revival’, this doesn’t do grime much justice. It’s always been here, if you look hard enough. It’s very easy to call a genre dead if it feels stagnant; the same is happening to UK drill right now. But it’s a lazy dismissal.

Granted, artists themselves haven’t always helped. The likes of AJ Tracey and Aitch have respectively turned their noses up at the genre, despite both making their starts in music via grime. It’s felt en vogue at times to corn grime, to dismiss it and what it offers artists young and old. This attitude has filtered through to fans and commentators (I vividly remember presenter Alhan Gençay’s explosive grime is dead rant in 2019), and attitudes harden as a result.

Now that grime is seemingly a wave again, the conversation needs to move on. Energies must shift to what we’re doing to continue platforming new grime artists coming through. How they can burst through more ceilings and to more recognition, bigger shows and, as a result, more props for the scene. How we position them in the context of a wider scene with oodles of talent in every sub-genre. Because, contrary to the belief of many, grime is still something the young’uns want to do. A movement that teaches us so much—how to rhyme, how to dress, how to walk and talk—has had its peaks and valleys, but so has every genre. Plus, how long can a genre be ‘resurging’ before we admit it’s a mainstay? Grime has proven its staying power ten times over. That it doesn’t need huge singles or zeitgeist moments like the 2015 Brit Awards to remain relevant just shows how much grime endures. The ‘revival’ title no longer serves what really happens in the scene—then or now—and we should reflect this in the way it’s spoken about and how we embrace it.

There is a generation of grime heads now and in the future to come that needs us to push them forward, and to recognise their hand in crafting modern grime as we see it before our eyes—from artists and producers to DJs and promoters. The culture has always stayed strong through grime’s 20+ years, through beats, bars and attitude, and it’s up to us to keep it that way.

Posted on June 19, 2024