Despite its emergence on the underground music scene at the turn of the 21st century, the impact of grime in mainstream culture today is inevitable.
Described by the BBC as the ‘most important musical development in the UK in decades’, the genre has produced winners and top scorers among rappers Stormzy, Dizzee Rascal, Skepta, among others.
He has been applauded by hip-hop rappers Drake and ASAP Rocky in the United States and emulated around the world.
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Wiley, who calls himself “godfather” of the musical genre, even received an OBE from Prince William a few years ago.
“Grime is the only genre of music that’s for people, by people,” grime fan Daniel Harwood tells me. âIt’s not written by ghosts by men in costume, or about imaginary heartbreaks or breakups or whatever. It’s real and genuine, which is why people l ‘love it so much. “
It is authentic and it is also distinctly London.
âI find it so funny how Americans are in it now,â adds Daniel’s friend Joe.
“Like, that’s such a London thing, grime. It’s the real East. It’s like EastEnders is being watched by the Kardashians, it makes me crack.”
The genre, which is broadcast on mainstream music stations around the world, in clubs in all capitals and on major festival stages, began limited to British pirate radio at the turn of the 21st century.
What set grime apart from contemporary music at the time was not just the way it was played, but what it was about.
Unlike chart-dominating R&B and hip-hop, grime was “partly a reaction to the sophistication of the dance music world of the late 90s,” Hua Hsu wrote.
âThey didn’t hide their accents – something European rappers of the ’80s and’ 90s often did … They were anthems for clubs that didn’t exist, with the hiss of ungrounded wires noticeable in background.”
Going back to the roots of grime, it might not do justice to even call it a London phenomenon, but more locally, a product of East London: specifically Roman Road in Bow.
âWe created the genre that everyone loves, but it all comes from Bow,â Wiley said on his Bow E3 track in 2007.
And a place played a particularly vital role in the formation of the genre.
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Rhythm Division was a bright blue record store on Roman Road, Tower Hamlets – today a cafe – that served as the geographic epicenter of the birth of grime, the beginnings of grime artists, including one of the greatest names of the genus, Dizzee Rascal.
âI think without Rhythm the scene would be very different now,â said Risky Roadz, who has been recording the journey of the grime scene for two decades now.
âIt was more than just a record store, it was the place where everyone gathered and talked about ideas and what they were going to do. It was much more than just a store. The place is special. “
Roman Road itself was both a home and inspiration for Wiley.
The rapper previously called the road “nourishing” when he discussed where the young rappers would meet and freestyle.
In fact, her first music video for Wot Do You Call It? was filmed there.
It’s not the only video shot on Roman Road, it’s not even the most famous.
Skepta’s song and accompanying video, That’s Not Me, was also shot along the Roman Road. Today, the video has over 17 million views on YouTube, forever cementing E3’s rightful place in London music history.
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