For the most part, grime compilations are often met with a degree of cynicism that tends to undermine the integrity of what each one tries to achieve. There have been many over the years that have tried and failed, through no fault of their own, to engage the public in the genre's obvious potential but few have made any real impact. Rinse's decision to release a definitive, full-length 2-CD compilation could therefore be considered a bold, if a little risky, statement.
With the first CD mixed by Rinse mainstay Spyro and the second by the influential Sian Anderson, 'I Love Grime' comes together to form a comprehensive look back across grime's 10 year history, uniting the classic formative sounds with the genre's current crop of stars.
Spyro takes a more nostalgic route through grime's frantic past, even selecting Pay As You Go's 2002 riddim 'Know We' and the unforgettable 'Pulse X', whilst Sian takes a more contemporary route, showcasing some of grime's best new MCs in the process. The pair's styles work well together though, with each seemingly representing the genre's older and newer schools, something reinforced by Sian's admittance that only 'a few' tracks were jointly selected.
As far as compilations go, 'I Love Grime' is a genuinely good effort, although I still feel the genre's reputation with the public will limit it's appeal. That said, with Rinse's backing, it is proof that grime still has it's place.
With that in mind, I made my way up to the station's offices last week to talk to the pair about the compilation, the continued importance of Rinse FM and controversially, who'd mixed the better CD:
Firstly, whose idea was it to mix a grime compilation? What was the aim when it was decided to be released?
Spyro: The idea was Rinse management's because there wasn't really a grime CD out at the time so obviously it made sense to do it. They came to me, I was on the idea straight away and we got the second CD to be mixed by Sian. Everything just went from there.
How did it feel to be chosen to mix the CD?
Sian: It was sick because i've been on Rinse for about 3, maybe 4 years and I've seen everyone make their Rinse CDs: Elijah and Skilliam, Scratcha, Royal-T. I respect the people that have done then before me so I proper felt chuffed to get the opportunity. I also felt really privileged that they picked me and Spyro because he's my don.
Do you think grime is slowly finding its way into the hearts and minds of a wider spectrum of people?
Spyro: Do you know what? Hopefully. It's what everybody wants - everyone wants to go to festivals and hear grime. Everybody else's music is where it should be but our music has taken for ever. It's probably our fault but that's still the way it is.
Sian: I don't think my version of grime is necessarily doing that and by 'my version' I mean the rawest, harshest grime. I think a younger generation of people are catching on and i think that a lot more people are aware of what it is, but people still don't necessarily like it. Obviously, the press coverage has made people more aware but do they like it? I wouldn't say so. There's obviously more commercially viable grime out there, the stuff that's a little bit slower, a little less life-threatening and people seem to appreciate that more. I'm happy that people still feel that.
Both CDs are packed full of tracks old and new - was the idea to give a snapshot of grime through the years?
Spyro: Definitely - obviously it had to start from somewhere. I was there from the beginning so it's kinda about sharing that with people. It's good to put older stuff in there, it's a bit of an education for those that might not know how grime used to sound and where it came from.
Sian: We didn't do it deliberately but when we looked at our tracklists, Spyro had picked the old school stuff and I'd picked all the newer stuff. There were tunes we both wanted but we compromised. We might have fought for like one track each but essentially the whole selection process was organic.
It's also worth noting the impact of outer-London artists on the compilation - what do you make of their contributions to the genre over the last couple of years in particular?
Spyro: Their contribution makes it even bigger. Even though it started in London, the more the merrier. The more tunes, the more for us. It can only be a plus.
Sian: Essex and the Midlands just went ham didn't they? They just came out of nowhere and they made London look a bit lazy for a second. It made London sit up and think 'shit' and then of course Lord of The Mics re-launched. That was dominated by guys like Preditah and Faze Miyake who aren't from London and Logan Sama was the official DJ and he's from Essex. There were also a lot of MCs involved who weren't from London either. I think they've all made healthy competition really, everyone's had to work that bit harder, even with regards to DJs and producers.
How difficult was the track selection process?
Spyro: Do you know what? It was hard man but it's like when you get a feeling you just go with your gut instinct.
Sian: I picked all the tunes that I wanted. Say I picked like 35, the ones that aren't on the actual CD are the ones I couldn't get clearance on so it worked out perfectly. Rinse gave me freedom too but it just so happened that the tracks we picked fitted together and worked. For me to be able to pick 35 tracks and Spyro to pick 35 tracks, all grime, and only pick one or two of the same tracks just shows the amount the quality of grime music out there.
Could you both name your personal favourite tracks on either CD?
Spyro: On my CD, it would have to be Tubby T - 'Tales from the Hood'. On Sian's, probably Wiley - 'Eskimo'.
Sian: 'Match Fit' by Ego, Merky Ace and Shifman and Wiley - 'Where's My Brother?'
Who do you think has mixed the better CD?
Spyro: (Laughs) Hahaha. I think they're both mixed equally as well. Sian did a good job, there's no faults there at all. Her CD is actually in my car more than mine.
Sian: Spyro obviously, he's a don. Do you know who Spyro is? He's a vet, how dare I? He should be offended that he had to do the CD with me to be honest (laughs).
Both of you have regular slots on Rinse - how important do you think the station is in pushing grime to a new, more widespread audience?
Spyro: This station man. If it wasn't for this station we wouldn't be having this interview right now. I'd still be on the grind definitely. I think it's massively important to be honest. Eveyrone I used to listen to came from this station. It's like a family - I can't even explain it properly really.
Sian: No station with a licensce plays any of the music I play on my show - that's how important it is. No station regularly plays older tracks like Spyro either, no other station documents grime like that...in a very cocky way obviously (laughs). Big up Rinse.
What can we expect next from you both?
Spyro: Just tunes man, I've been in the studio constantly. I've been going in so expect loads of releases!
Sian: I might start doing some bookings, I usually turn them down because I'm always busy but I want to start to playing out. You can expect me in a club near you soon! I've got a playlist on my show and the emotional wheel off and I'm also gonna be adding a 20 minute mix to the show. Oh and buy my Rinse CD!
Words by Tomas Fraser