Kanye West won the BRITs.
No ifs, no buts, no maybes. The rapper wasn't even meant to be there, agreeing to step in for Rihanna at the last minute when the pop star felt rehearsals weren't up to her usual exacting standards. Stepping in to perform brand new track 'All Day', the hip hop icon stunned fans by inviting what appeared to be the bulk of the UK's grime scene onstage with him.
It felt like a game-changing moment. The BRITs has never been kind to urban music, with precisely zero black British artists invited to perform at this year's ceremony and the only commitment to urban music itself coming from – cough – an appearance from Ed Sheeran. So Kanye simply flexed some muscle and placed them centre stage – after he'd indulged in a cheeky Nando's, of course.
In a way, it's been a long time coming. Grime has been a fixture – small, but visible – on New York's club scene since the sound broke in London over a decade ago. Claiming a foothold amongst the city's Caribbean community, the Big Apple re-cast grime amid a dancehall set up, exploring the sound's Jamaican roots while retaining some of that London flavour.
Just recently, grime has been blowing up amongst some of rap's biggest names. Drake is repping Wiley, with fans now hoping for a full collaboration between Drizzy and Eskiboy himself; Danny Brown won't move without claiming a grimy beat from Darq E Freaker while Skepta has become the toast of hip hop's cognoscenti, even working with A$AP Mob's Traplord.
It's been a long, hard journey for grime, with the sound – rooted in London, ever aware of its own regionality – struggling to become universal. Which is precisely why Kanye West's move was so important: by embracing the grime scene en masse, one of hip hop's biggest names, most important figures, has accepted the sound as a whole.
Claiming that his recent fashion line was inspired by the London riots, Yeezy clearly feels a kinship with the city's underground. Boy Better Know were right there onstage, Stormzy was front and centre, while Novelist – who's only just celebrated his 18th birthday – stood right beside the man himself. An astonishing show of force, it was a truly incredible sight.
In a way, it felt a little like the period when The Beatles and The Rolling Stones stormed the United States, reminding an American audience of the incredible music being produced within their grasp. Grime wasn't given a foothold at this year's BRITs – so Kanye simply held open the door and let in a few renegades from the ends.
Check it out below.
Eskimo Dance basically. Kanye you supposed to pass the mic after a 16 fam— Elijah (@Eli1ah) February 25, 2015
Kanye repping Grime at the Brits pic.twitter.com/zwhrmlr48U— Elijah (@Eli1ah) February 25, 2015