The Lasting Impact Of The Movement

Words: Jesse Bernard

On paper, The Movement shouldn’t have worked as a grime crew in 2006. There were endless debates on Grime Forum as to whether they were more UK rap than grime, and not much tied individual members together geographically besides all originating from London; both Wretch 32 and Scorcher came from Tottenham, North London, while Mercston (Bow), Ghetts (Plaistow) and Devlin (Dagenham) all came from different parts of East. You’d imagine the idea likely stemmed from a random conversation, but the fact that it was an informal coming together meant they had no obligations towards one another.

Some groups we’ve seen over the years suffer from the lack of realisation that, perhaps, there’s a time where you just grow apart. The Movement never had that issue when it was time for them to part ways, largely due to the careers of Wretch 32, Devlin and Ghetts ascending while Scorcher and Mercston had legal issues preventing them from doing the same. They did, however, come together as a unit (bar Devlin) as recently as 2016, on the remix of Mercston’s song “All Now”. The issue for some MCs is that their past often comes to meet them somewhere in the present, or future. Mercston’s career stalled due to a two-year imprisonment, while Scorcher found himself in trouble with the law once or twice. The two have since managed to maintain a presence underground, with their respective fanbases fiercely following for over a decade.

However, it was through their 2006 mixtape, Tempo Specialists, where the force of The Movement was truly felt. It was a sign that spitters from different geographical locations could find sonical harmony despite each of them coming from their own unique rap and grime cultures. Perhaps The Movement and what each member brought to the table is best understood through the use of a football analogy.

What you need to hold a balanced team together is a solid defensive-mid, someone with enough quality to read and control the tempo of the game. They are arguably the most balanced on the field due to their tactical positioning. Wretch 32 was that guy for The Movement. He was by no means a battle emcee, but where he compensated was through his lyrical wordplay and use of imagery that he exemplified on the posse cut “Used To Be”. Ghetts was your guy on the wing—give him an inch, and he’ll leave you in his dust. There are few MCs with such an ability quite like Ghetts, which also suggests how formidable an opponent P Money was during their infamous beef. It’s also no wonder G-H is still one of the most prolific UK rhymers still active; there’s a relentlessness to him where few can compare.

Scorcher, on the other hand, was the attacking mid/forward with razor-sharp delivery and, on occasion, proved himself to be a lyrically offensive spitter built for clashing. What made Scorcher attention-grabbing was that he was believable and, for the most part, few could doubt the events he’d recount in his writing. The irony of him being a Spurs fan isn’t lost on me but he was the Andrei Arshavin of The Movement—showing true flashes of brilliance and promise, but couldn’t quite remain consistent.

Devlin was the wildcard who, on his day, could more than hold his own. It was partly Devlin’s being from Essex, his pronounced East End accent and English style of rapping that juxtaposed The Movement’s Caribbean, grime origins. Some MCs make up for the lack of theatre and charisma for shoring up the fundamental, technical skills, and that’s partly what draws people to Devlin because he’s far from your typical MC, more everyman, but he’s made it this far through focusing on the storytelling element of his skillset.

Maybe the collective did have an identity problem; perhaps they couldn’t figure out what kind of group they wanted to be. Part of me reckons that The Movement was established to experiment and see what could come out of the bringing together of differing voices and styles. Although they’ve been disbanded for some time, echoes of the collective still exist through collaborations between Ghetts, Mercston, Devlin and Wretch 32. For the most part, it seems as though they achieved their goal of being heard. The Movement might not have been the most impactful within grime, but for some crew members, it represented a moment of change and ascension.

After years of frustration, the profile they had raised as a collective unit saw three of five heard regularly on radio, still to this day. While that may not have been the goal for others, The Movement was a point in time where a group of talented individuals embraced collectivism ahead of personal gain. If only for a brief moment.

Posted on July 30, 2019