Grime Tracker #1: Wiley vs. Skepta beef and more
Written by Dylan Reynolds on February 19, 2019
Three years ago, I first heard about grime — a very fast, very British variant of hip hop. I’m not sure exactly why the genre appealed to me so much at the time. Maybe it was the unique instrumentals, which drive forward at 140 bpm and sound like a fusion of EDM and classic video game soundtracks. Maybe it was the lyrics, varying from corny punchlines to less-than-sincere threats at opponents. Or maybe it was the grime MCs themselves, who often rely on over-the-top personas to differentiate themselves from their peers. Regardless, I started following the UK grime scene from afar, often sharing the best new releases with friends, hoping the genre might soon gain a foothold on this side of the Atlantic.
Three years later, grime still isn’t popular in the U.S. There have been a few cases where a grime artist found success as a featured artist on a U.S. rapper’s track, but the genre itself feels relegated overseas.
A big part of a genre’s success depends on word of mouth, and word of mouth often depends on the press. Someone reads about a cool new song on a music blog, they tell their friends about it, and pretty soon that song has a significant audience. I thought it would be cool to start a series of grime news updates on BlackSquirrelRadio.com, so maybe (hopefully) more people in northeast Ohio can get into this developing genre from the inner cities of Britain.
Wiley has beef with Skepta and Dizzee Rascal
The biggest drama that the grime scene has experienced in a while is unfolding right now, as legendary MC Wiley has been exchanging accusations and diss tracks with one-time friends Skepta and Dizzee Rascal. The beef’s backstory is slightly convoluted, but it all boils down to feelings of betrayal. WIley and Dizzee, two of the best MCs from grime’s beginnings in the early 2000s, have been at odds for more than 15 years since Dizzee was stabbed while vacationing in Ayia Napa, Cyprus. Dizzee blamed Wiley for the assault and the two haven’t spoken since.
Last year, the feud was reignited when Skepta, a friend and frequent collaborator with Wiley, recorded the song “Money Right” with Dizzee. Offended that his friend would fraternize with the enemy, Wiley sent the diss track “Flip The Tables” at both Skepta and Dizzee, accusing the pair of being phoneys and quitters. Skepta responded earlier this month with “Wish You Were Here,” calling Wiley of being all talk, to the point where he didn’t show up to his own party after learning Skepta would be there. It isn’t clear what will happen next… Will Wiley respond? Will there be a clash (the grime equivalent of a rap battle)? The ball is in Wiley’s court, so what he does next could have big implications for all three artists.
Slowthai earns acclaim from U.S. music press
Someone at Pitchfork seems to be a big fan of up-and-coming rapper/grime artist Slowthai. Nearly all of his latest singles have received praise from the music website, and it’s not hard to understand why. Slowthai brings a unique sound and energy to the scene, as well as a knack for avant-garde videos that supplement his music perfectly. While not all of his songs are grime, most of them share similarities to the genre. The sky’s the limit for this guy’s first proper album, which is still in the works.
AJ Tracey underwhelms with debut album
After a very successful early career, AJ Tracey has finally gotten around to releasing his self-titled debut album, and the reception has been lukewarm. There are good songs on the album, no doubt, but Tracey experiments with several genres and never lands on a distinctive style. The Guardian wrote in their review that he “is on fire, yet in some danger of losing his individuality.”
Cadet killed in a traffic accident
London MC Cadet died early this month in a car accident on the way to a college show. He was known as an up-and-coming performer and the cousin of rapper Krept. Tributes and messages of sympathy have been pouring in all month after the tragic accident, ensuring that Cadet’s memory will live on.
Devlin returns with new song “Fun To Me”
Nobody asked to see Devlin shirtless in a new music video, but if that’s what it takes to get new music from the East London MC, we’ll take it. His new track “Fun To Me” dropped last month, and it’s cold and intense as expected. On the song, he rhymes about how he’d rather enjoy life than act hard, but his sharp vocal delivery is anything but laid back. He also addresses the somewhat shocking fact that he’s been away from the scene so long his hair has gone gray.
Tempa T channels past self on “Keyboard Warrior”
Grime MCs often use a stage persona to add to their entertainment value, and Tempa T is the embodiment of the over-the-top persona. His rapping could reasonably be called shouting, and his temper is second only to the Incredible Hulk. On his new song “Keyboard Warrior,” Tempa describes in excessive detail what he would do to online haters. “Come to your house, kick out the whole iMac, then pull out all of the cords. Kick over the whole iMac, kick over the MacBook Pro, drag all of the wires from the back, kick speakers off of the sides.” It’s an absolute joy to hear, mainly because it’s so over the top. Tempa T hasn’t been this angry since his 2009 hit “Next Hype.”