Every so often people forget about Grime and assume it’s dead, but it never is.
Whilst it’s true that some of Grime’s early pioneers aren’t always releasing strictly Grime anymore, Grime is always active and thriving on smaller stages. This is before we even look to cities outside of London where Grime has been a mainstay and has kept the sound relevant. Ghetts summed it up in the simplest way:
“Grime’s alive as long as I am”Ghetts – Grime Daily
The ‘I’ doesn’t have to mean just Ghetts, as long as there is a single Grime MC, DJ, or producer it’s alive. But what is Grime?
The days of saying it’s 140bpm are over. That strict rubric that once defined it no longer stands in the way it once did. This is largely due to early Grime artists having explored other sounds and then bringing back those influences to Grime. But there is an indication as to what it is in the name itself. Grime is dark, rough, and in your face. This was embodied in the early days with pirate radio. MC’s would pay to be on radio and be in rooms packed full of artists wanting to get their bars out, no matter who the bars would upset in the room. Artists would have to literally tussle to get on the mic, and if what they delivered wasn’t good enough they weren’t getting it back that day.
This energy and the strong Caribbean influence led to Grime’s clash culture. It has taken the form of on stage clashes, clashes on sets, and trading dubs on tracks. The clash is so key to the culture that none of the revered MC’s in the Grime scene have made it without having a clash with someone – even if it wasn’t that deep rooted in real animosity.
Grime has its ebbs and flows. Sometimes like a tsunami, it will quickly take centre stage but then just as quickly it will fall to the wayside again in the mainstream eyes. Grime saw a resurgence in 2014 with Meridian Dan’s ‘German Whip’, Skepta’s ‘That’s Not Me’, and in 2015 Stormzy’s ‘Shut Up’. It was the Stormzy record which really tipped Grime’s perception. No longer was it this dark, underground thing, it was propelled to the masses due to Stormzy’s audience being a mix of more mainstream facing music fans and fans of the underground.
That was 2015, but if we fast forward to 2019 Grime was again seemingly stuck. I say seemingly because D Double E got a Grime track featured on an IKEA advert as well as Kano dropping ‘Hoodies All Summer’. Towards the end of the year, Dot Rotten appeared. After a disagreement with Jay 1 over payment for a beat he decided to get in the booth. From that day on almost non stop he’s released a new track getting at someone, some of the names on his list include Wiley, Jaykae, Stormzy and Boy Better Know.
Of those names only Wiley and Jaykae have actually replied with tracks. Wiley gave him a throw away but Jaykae’s ‘Shush’ might actually have been the best dub to have come out of all of these conflicts. In it he addresses both Wiley and Dot but that has pretty much been the end of it. Wiley has only made a twitter video in response, and Dot has kept relatively quiet on it as well. So if there’s any traditional winner in this clash at the moment it’s Jaykae.
But that’s not where it stopped. Wiley doing what he does took to Twitter and created a storm. Through a series of back and forths over the social media platform with Stormzy, the pair seemingly fell out. This was swiftly followed by a track from Wiley and then one back by Stormzy. These first dubs were like the first round in a boxing match, light sparring with some early jabs but not the most potent stuff. No MC goes all out on the first dub, they always have something else in the locker they’re just setting up the knockout blow on the first one most of the time.
What’s interesting to note with this whole conflict is the attention it’s getting. When the artists dropped their second dubs, the tracks were the number 1 and 2 trending videos on YouTube for that day. When Stormzy dropped his second reply the only other thing trending on Twitter at the time was Megan Markle and Prince Harry leaving the royal family. Here both upped the levels and on ‘Still Disappointed’ Stormzy reaffirmed that he is as much a Grime artist as he is an artist that can do numbers.
Now whilst it’s great to have all this buzz part of it hasn’t felt that authentic. The animosity doesn’t really seem to be there on both sides and it’s convenient that Stormzy is in the middle of a press run and Wiley is about to drop a new album. It feels almost manufactured especially considering the fact both artists are under the Warner Music Group umbrella. Add to this that Wiley had previously said Grime artists should have an album ready for January and alluded to the fact that this attention on Grime was what he wanted all along – it loses some of its sting. That’s not a bad thing artists should get along where they can, but it takes something away from this clash in that it now appears to lack authenticity.
Outside of this it has brought Grime back to its essence. it’s exciting again, people are tuned in waiting on what’s going to happen next. Some newer Grime fans were seemingly confused about what was going on with the first dubs. They felt the conflict wasn’t what was needed for Grime. That in itself shows how far Grime has come and how long it’s been around because some new fans don’t even know what it was built on.
We are all waiting for Chip to get involved at some point – the man who can’t run out of bars has even teased a few times that he’s ready for anyone. Cadell has also recently dropped his dub for Stormzy but most fans are still waiting on Wiley‘s 3rd dub. For me I want P Money to drop a dub, he’d be my first pick if I was choosing an Avenger’s style Grime clashing team. The only person he’s had a problem with that has dropped a dub is Dot Rotten and he won’t send now because he’s done it before.
The real question is: was this all because of Stormzy or Wiley? It looks more like a calculated move by Wiley but the two could even be in on it together.
For those who want to see and hear some of Grime’s best dubs here are some of my favourites and who was involved in each clash:
Bashy vs Ghetts
This doesn’t really need explaining, this is where that infamous “Where’s Carlos” moment happened.
Ghetts vs P Money
This back and forth was iconic because both artists were popping at the time. Not only that they are both extremely gifted lyricists and technicians. Fans were split on who won this, but you should look back into it and see why for yourself.
P Money vs Dot Rotten
This was a feud that stemmed from genuine problems so it was interesting to see it play out. What should have been one of the best clashes to date quickly became a pretty one sided affair. P Money at points looked like he was bullying Dot, Dot did bring it back with some of his later dubs but by then the damage was done. In the aftermath Dot Rotten removed his dubs from YouTube.
Dot Rotten vs AJ Tracey
This was less a clash and more a masterclass in Dot flexing his Grime muscles. He sends for AJ Tracey but it didn’t turn into a back and forth. When you listen to this just appreciate the skill and wordplay on display. My favourite moment is Dot seamlessly transitioning from the first instrumental into the second and getting the coveted wheel up.
Chip vs Everyone
Let’s be honest, there’s a reason we all want to see Chip get involved at the moment. his workrate in beef is second to none, the lyricism is top tier, the dubs are infused with tongue in cheek bits of humour, and he will never back down – or run out of bars.