Flash back to just over a decade ago and I, like many others, was on the start of my journey through grime, not knowing what the future was going to hold. I’d just got myself a job at Channel U in a little concrete floored office, just off Old Street managing the channel. It was hidden away down a little alley and could be cold and threatening at times but there was a familiar feel to it and it stood for something when you were in there. In a strange way it embodied just what the scene was at that time, cold, dark and uninviting but behind its closed doors, it was full of energy and excitement.
Artists would call by uninvited to drop off mini DV’s and £20 submission fees or discuss their latest videos. The office was always full of MCs and there was an incredible mix of emotions. Arguments flowed as I had to turn down videos and my reasons were met with anger, frustration and resentment. The thing was, I understood, I got it. It was a difficult time and there was no real guarantee as to whether this was all going to pay off. The hustle was real, nobody was investing in the game so getting the money together to make a video was a struggle, so when I was telling MCs it had all been in vain, they were understandably pissed!
- - -
- - -
It was the understanding that motivated me and drew me further in to the scene. It had become something I loved and fought for and after eight years, I went on to A&R and release a number of grime compilations for Channel U and AKA and then oversaw the running of the music label that my manager set up. We released the likes of 'Pow 2011,' Ghetts ‘Calm Before The Storm’ and Devlin’s ‘Giant’, ‘Community Outcast’ and ‘Shot Music’ with Giggs.
This was a new age now, we were doing things independently and the energy was electric. It was the unknown, nobody knew where it was going and the passion and excitement was reaching boiling point. The scene was hungry and there was an angry, loud and unapologetic soundtrack to go alongside it.
While it was aggy and uncontrolled, by 2010 major labels woke up to the potential of the energy and soon offers were on the table. However, the sacrifice to break through was that anyone who signed a deal had to be prepared to offer a sanitized and diluted version of grime in order to get mainstream coverage, so a ‘pop’ equivalent was portrayed to the masses.
- - -
- - -
Fast-forward to 2016, and 2010 gets brought up time and again. Dubbed as a ‘resurgence’, grime is currently enjoying some long overdue support and limelight, but is it really a reurgence? The definition of ‘resurgence’ is "an increase or revival after a period of little activity, popularity, or occurrence."
Little activity does not apply, grime has always been alive, energetic and ready to kick off your front door. Popularit, has definitely shifted BUT has grime ever been popular and active like it is right now? The answer is no. Grime has never been accepted and celebrated in its raw and true form the way it is today. Grime artists previously celebrated a good run of success back in 2010 but with the list of tracks that the UKG crew recently played out on their video montage at the Red Bull Culture Clash, slewing the Eskimo Dance, it was a stark reminder of the sacrifices MCs had to make to create a watered down and "pop" relatable version of "urban" music that could be accepted in the charts, and thus a far cry from true grime.
Despite these highs and lows, there’s a deep-rooted foundation that has been built on and supported the genre, giving artists the limelight regardless of whether it's the 'in thing’. There’s the MCs we all know and love and the DJ’s that are 100% dedicated to the cause but what about the people behind the scenes that have constantly chipped away and helped elevate grime to it’s current position. Strong foundations and benchmarks have been created by people that have remained very true to the cause to enable the genre and stop it from deviating from its true path. They've been here for years and will remain here once the cool kids have moved on too. Without their contribution and dedication, the scene wouldn't exist as it is today and the opportunities that exist for the culture right now, wouldn't be available.
- - -
- - -
Here we check out the Unsung Heroes of Grime...
One of the first ladies of grime. Chantelle is an exceptional journalist. Her love for the music and the energy around it made them her an unstoppable force and she documented that passion via her writing. Bringing grime artists and gigs to print magazines before anyone else, Fiddy fought with editors for what she believed in and her pitches paid off, and when they didn’t, she’d find her own way to talk about it.
Her blog, Chantelle Fiddy’s World of Grime, became infamous in the scene and a first stop for anyone looking for the latest scoop. She later went on to be contributing editor at RWD Magazine and urban editor at MixMag with her work appearing across Dazed & Confused, Sunday Times, The Guardian and more. By making the breakthrough for grime in the press, Chantelle contributed to its acceptance and helped it to grow from a sub-genre in to a culture and a genre of its own.
Over the years Hattie has continued her ascent through journalism, always keeping a stronghold on grime. Through her years of support and coverage, she has enabled a sea of would-be journalists to pick up a pen and start writing.
Now the editor at i-D Magazine, Hattie continues to provide a platform for both fellow writers and grime in all shapes and forms. Her close proximity to the genre throughout it’s growth has also given her the knowledge and relationships to document grime in the first book to be published on the subject further adding to grime’s acceptance and importance in modern day society.
Nadia is one of the original managers in grime. The relationship she has with Lethal Bizzle stretches back over two decades starting from her humble beginnings working for a PR agency. Upon meeting Bizzle and working his music as a job, her steely determination shone through and they’ve never been apart since.
The pair together have a list of ‘firsts’ in the grime world which include charting a record with no radio support, launching a clothing label, which went on to sell in Selfridges and setting up their own label under a major record label deal. Nadia’s fiercely protective and determined manner has helped to set the milestones that many other artists and managers now work towards on their journey both in grime and independent music management.
A one-time producer, Rashid is the man behind Link Up TV. Try to get hold of him and you’ll have your work cut out, mainly due to the fact he never stops working and is completely hands on within his business. He’s helped to launch the careers of Krept & Konan, Section Boyz, Wstrn and Bugzy Malone thanks to his internet platform that launched in 2010.
Possibly one of the latest to enter the scene, Rashid has definitely paid his dues and throughout his years has never tried to shift the goal posts for what Link Up TV stands for. His dedication to the culture has meant that Link Up TV has become an influential provider and tastemaker, especially for mainstream platforms that feed off the reactions they see on his platform.
One of the original directors of grime videos, Carly Cussen delivered on classics such as Tinie Tempah's ‘Wifey Riddim’ and Lethal Bizzle's ‘Pow 2011’. Now a major video director that works with the likes of Missy Eliott, Wretch 32, Krept & Konan and still with Tinie Tempah, Carly was able to introduce the world to grime through visuals and make them want to see more. Her skills and vision took Channel U from showing camcorder, home-shot videos to showing videos with a story and a professional look.
By increasing the visual levels of independent music videos, making them acceptable for mainstream platforms to support, Carly helped to push grime to a wider audience and helped to ensure grime could be seen alongside major budget videos from signed artists for the first time.
Unsung Heroes of Grime – we salute you!
- - -
Words: Cat Park