Lord of the Mics began life as a battle series that pitted young, frustrated MCs against one another in a battle of wits, charisma and overriding lyrical ability in a basement in East London.
It ran for two installments before being seemingly resigned to the history books, despite showcasing the raw talents of then young MCs like Kano, Skepta and Wiley. Seven years on in 2011, the series enjoyed a successful re-launch with chief orchestrator Jammer uniting some of the genre's biggest and best current stars in a nostalgic throwback to the original volumes.
Keen for Lord of the Mics to document grime's future in the same way it has documented its past, I caught up with Jammer ahead of the launch of the latest installment to talk clashing, new audiences and building the brand.
– – –
How big was the challenge to re-launch Lord of the Mics last year?
"It was a big one, I'm not gonna lie. I was really worried because the two we put out before we're so classic. It was important to make sure the third installment stood up to the levels of the first and not make people say, 'Ah they should have just left it'. I made sure I was selecting the top artists we could get at the time in the UK and thankfully it went down with a bang."
Why do you think it was such a success?
"I think the progression of grime and the artists involved in the first two in particular made people want to get involved. Everyone proved themselves and put on a good show too. Compared to the original clashes, people are doing a lot more research now. There was a lot more to be said which in turn makes for a better show – it was more than just banter really, the bars were all directed and artist-specific."
Do you see the series as a way of keeping newer audiences in touch with grime's roots?
"Yeah man, the new fans that found out through number 3 are gonna find out about the first two and obviously realise where it all started. It's more than just a DVD and a battle series, it's documenting history and the lives and careers of MCs."
How important do you think the first and second series were in terms of broadcasting grime and the art of 'clashing' – at the time, largely ignored facets of inner city youth culture?
"To be honest, I think time made the difference – at the time, I didn't think I was making a part of history, we were just doing it. Over time, we realised it was a legendary thing. With time, hopefully they'll all go on to be classics. There's gonna be kids that'll grow up and go back to check 3 and 4 like people check out 1 and 2 now."
How relevant do you think clashing is today?
"I think it's even more relevant now than back then. It brings out a true artist, harks back to their roots and it's always raw and gritty. I can't imagine where grime will be in 10 years time but we (Boy Better Know) won that Red Bull Culture Clash the other day through clashing. That's where we are from – we grew up doing it. From a viewer's perspective, It's all about competition and it makes things entertaining. It gives you something to talk about and connect with people about. It lets you see the whole artist too and see how they cope under pressure and put forward their own personalities. You don't really get the same insight in other areas of music."
Did you ever imagine Lord of the Mics could become so iconic? What is it that makes it so unique?
"I knew it was iconic to an extent but now as a brand, I look at it and it still amazes me to this day. I think there's just nothing else like it in the UK, there's nothing that brings everything together in a package like Lord of the Mics does for a tenner. No one else does it, it's one of a kind. The artists too, the legacy of some them is a big thing – Wiley, Kano, Skepta – seeing how far they've gone and the platform it gave them, makes the whole thing even more legendary."
Most memorable moment across the series?
"My best memory is the day I pulled out the camera and asked Wiley, "Do you wanna clash Kano?" and he said yes straight away. He literally went into the basement started running tunes and they started clashing within minutes. It was kinda surreal. Wiley was the biggest in the scene, Kano the biggest newcomer – when they clashed, it made everybody aware of how big it was. It inspired other people to get involved."
What is the thinking looking ahead? Can we expect a continuation of the series?
"Year in, year out. We might do a few collaborations with people too, we're looking to keep going and build the brand as fully as we can."
Words by Tomas Fraser
– – –
More Lord Of The Mics 4 information HERE.