Contrary to Mariah Carey’s comments, time is a construct that music operates under and acknowledges. That being said, it begs the question of how has our scene changed from 2009 to 2019?
If you’ve been active on social media in the past month, then you would have noticed the viral #10yearchallenge that has flooded all types of social networks. Every Tom, Dick and Harry has been posting their throwbacks (most of which nobody ever asked or needed to see) alongside recent pictures, to detail their glow-up within the last ten years.
What the hashtag revealed beyond anything is how quick time flies, and how much of a different place the world was back in 2009, specifically music. 2009 saw the growth of several homegrown artists into chart toppers, such as Tinchy Stryder and Dizzee Rascal. 2009 was also a year that saw the phenomenon of Funky house take charge within the urban UK scene, with the almost endless amount of ‘Skank’ songs that came out during that year, and the work of artists such as Donae’o.
When you compare UK music now to back then, they are truly polar opposites. Unfortunately, Funky house is not a mainstay within our scene like it used to be, which speaks volumes for the changes in the scene from now until then; Grime, which re-emerged as a powerhouse around 2014/15 and continues to thrive ’til this present day, had entered a stagnant phase back in 2009, and as a result, we saw more and more artists bridging the gap between Grime and Funky house in order to reignite the genre’s flame.
Also, sub-genres such as Drill did not even properly exist back in 09; Drill music’s ‘predecessor’, so to speak, in hood videos, (many of which existed on YouTube channels such as ‘LimtilessVids’ and ‘tempaboi06′) which birthed the careers of some of the UK’s best like Headie One for example, did not receive the exposure that they do in this day. You’d never get a choreographed hood video back in 2009!
It’s great to be in a position where there is more space for more diverse music in the scene now, but one should remember that it wasn’t always like this. Rappers don’t need to have stripes or come from a certain background to be taken seriously anymore. On the flip side however, one thing that remains the same is the boxing of singers into certain genres; as said earlier, with the huge diversity within music nowadays we now have more artists than ever before who are trying to push the envelope, and expand the parameters that music genres usually set. But unfortunately despite this, the majority of singers are falsely boxed within the R&B genre, even when their music contains an amalgam of alternative elements, ranging from jazz to funk. Beyond being misrepresentation, it’s laziness. It makes less way for new genres to form, and new artists to bring new sounds. It’s an attitude that existed 10 years ago, and still exists to this day, but it has to change. Let’s just hope it won’t take another 10 years.
One other major difference from now compared to 10 years ago is the change in relationship between the UK and US scenes. Whereas before the US was seen as a haven that all artists should aspire to reach, in recent years, UK artists have increasingly realised that the scene is as fruitful here as over there. There seemed to be an innate contradiction within circles of UK music 10 years ago; artists were expected to aspire and work towards reaching out to the US, but at the same time, not to stray too far, and remain loyal to their roots, and never ‘sell out’. One of the first UK artists to make this transition, Chip, unfortunately bore the brunt of this contradiction, and was constantly badgered for ‘selling out’ to the US. This is something that wouldn’t happen nowadays, or at least, not likely to. We actually see more US artists branching out over here, and trying to increase their star status by collaborating with UK artists – take it how you want, but it does speak volumes for the growth of the UK scene. The UK is still a hotbed of talent, everyone here knows this – it has been refreshing to see the world realise this in the last 10 years.
Have we glowed up or down? It’s a debate that could go on for days, but there are facts that no one can dispute. We have more artists coming out now than ever before, and these artists are constantly pushing the envelope, and encroaching into fashion and art circles, which was something we did not see as regularly back in 2009. Back in 2009, we had Migraine Skank; in 2019, we have Gun Lean – a false equivalency yes, but they are two tunes that serve as symbols of each time period. It just leaves you to wonder what to expect from the next 10 years, but one thing is for certain – our scene is on too high of a pedestal to ever fall off from.