Disclaimer: I hate rap.
Okay, so hate’s a strong word. How about this: I genuinely can’t relate to anything Yeezy’s saying (except my new wristband, which says “My life is dope and I do dope shit”—that’s never coming off). I don’t understand the appeal of Kendrick, Drake, Future, you name it. It just doesn’t work for me.
So, naturally, when I first heard grime vaguely described to me as a spinoff of rap, dance and spoken word, I frankly couldn’t care less.
For the life of me, I can’t even begin to rationalize what happened next. Somehow, I got Stormzy’s anthem “Shut Up” playing in my headphones. And I loved it. I started saying “shut up” and “backup dancer” at random. My new favorite word? Merky.
My obsession was taking off. I started reading about and listening to all things grime. Now, it’s your turn. That’s right—you don’t have to go ‘abroad’ to ‘Penn in London’ to discover this hidden gem of a genre.
The Wickedest MC's Alive
It’s about time you get acquainted with the Godfather of Grime. This East London native pioneered a new genre by inflecting Caribbean flair and electronic vibes on rap to create eskibeat in the early 2000’s, followed by the founding of Eskibeat Recordings. Then, the UK garage influence kicked in, one thing led to another, and eskibeat evolved into grime as we know it. Wiley’s further dominated the genre with the founding of labels Boy Better Know and A–List Records, inspiring MCs everywhere. Thanks for everything, Wiley.
Essential tracks: “Wearing My Rolex”, “Too Many Man”, “Wickedest MC Alive”
Notable lyrics: “We need some more girls in here” ← said every frat bro ever
This grime star was greatly influential in helping to shift grime from the underground to mainstream. Oh and he’s also BFF with grime star Wiley and actual bros with JME and started his own record label, so seriously, this dude rocks.
Essential tracks: “Shutdown”, “I Spy”
Notable lyrics: “Won’t stop grime til everything’s kosher” ← So Skepta’s been to Hillel dinner, good to know.
This self–proclaimed skengman has proven himself to be more than just Kanye’s backup dancer at the Brit awards. Stormzy’s racked up “Best Grime Act” awards at the MOBO awards for two consecutive years after dropping stellar single after single, and he’s just getting started. Good call, Apple Music, on slotting this guy Fridays 8–10pm on Beats 1.
Essential tracks: “Shut Up”, “Know Me From”, “Not That Deep”
Notable lyrics: “Look, I make fuckboys run out of bars” ← Did you know Penn has fuckboys? Send help, @Stormzy.
This London native started Boy Better Know records with brother Skepta and had released two albums called Blam! and Famous?. On top of being a famous grime artist, JME also dabbles in fashion. I mean, just check out his clothing line.
Essential tracks: “Man Don’t Care”, “Don’t @ Me”
Notable lyrics: “I'm 'bout to get it started, I'm 'bout to get amnesia'd” ← honestly sounds like he’s ready for fling.
This talented grime artist studied Music Production and Theory, Classical Piano, Percussion and Vocals at the Centre for Young Musicians. Yeah, this guy is clearly a fucking boss. If you have time, check out his Shakkapella video series. You won’t be sorry.
Essential tracks: “Say Nada - Remix”, “When Will I See You Again”
Notable lyrics: “I double take and pray the e-mail was a typo” ← after Goldman rejects you during OCR.