By Jack Dixon
At first glance, things do not look good for Grime. It seems to have lost the momentum and widespread appeal it enjoyed in the mid-late 2010’s. In the wake of the explosion in popularity of drill and ‘chill’ UK rap, it has struggled to draw in the same crowds it once used to.
Its most popular voices continue to be legends from older generations like Skepta, JME and Kano, while many of these voices have left the genre either to pursue different sounds, pursue careers outside of music, or in the case of Wiley, completely self-destruct what he had left of a career.
The genre has gone from drawing in figures like Kanye and Drake to openly embracing the Grime sound, to younger artists who once came up in the Grime scene now looking to other genres to find commercial success.
Figures like Aitch even argue that ‘no one younger than me’s bothered about Grime’.
In its over 20 years of existence, Grime has had to deal with being labeled ‘dead’ and irrelevant’ multiple times, and every time the resilience of the genre has demonstrated its consistent appeal across musical generations.
While it may seem a foregone conclusion at the moment, I believe that this dip in popularity is no exception and Grime will continue to have a strong underground scene at the very least and may even be able to break into the mainstream once again.
Throughout 2022, dance music has been growing steadily in popularity with major artists like Drake and Beyonce making explicitly dance-music records.
Whilst I can’t claim that both these massive artists did this because of our shared love for Grime, what it does show is a wider cultural shift towards dance music and similar genres.
At its core, Grime derives its sound from the UK dance and rave scenes of Jungle, Garage and Dancehall and, as a result, it translates well into this new renaissance of dance music. Increasingly popular DJs and artists take explicit inspiration from the sound of Grime: Mall Grab and Nia archives are two glaring examples of this.
Mall Grab has had a meteoric rise over the last few years, garnering tens of millions of streams on some of his songs. His most recent album sports a single featuring none other than Novelist and D Double E, not to mention one of his earlier tracks being named ‘I’ve always liked grime’.
Nia archives has also carved out for herself a strong niche within the dance music scene that has won her an NME award for her production.
She combines smooth neo-soul vocals with old sounds of Jungle, Garage and Grime music; sampling songs like Wiley’s Jam Pie and citing in interviews that figures like ‘Dizzie rascal was a big production influence on me’.
Before anyone points out this does not fully assure Grime’s continued existence as a genre and instead just shows its influence on newer, more popular genres; the underground grime scene gives us even greater hope that Grime is far from dying.
Figures like SBK, PK and Mez are all relatively new faces on the scene, bringing fresh ideas and sounds to the genre with them all while staying true to Grime’s musical roots.
Their tracks can range from capricious flows over heavy basslines, to cool garage-influenced dance tunes and to collaborations with some of the biggest names in the genre.
The sheer diversity of the grime underground scene demonstrates its ability to adapt to changes in the wider musical culture.
There are countless other names in the underground scene who are now also just starting to make names for themselves and there even seems to be exciting signs that female artists within the genre are creating a space for themselves to creatively flourish.
The formation of the Female Allstars along with other artists like Chey putting out new music shows Grime is tapping into new sources of artistry and expanding its appeal to new avenues.
Ultimately, Grime is a genre with strong foundations that have consistently proved difficult to fully remove from public consciousness.
Even when it does not capture the mainstream eye like it once did, it will continue on in the underground.
We have a lot to thank Grime for inventing and influencing, for now it seems that it will continue to make its mark on the underground scene whilst influencing major elements of the emerging musical world.
Those ready to write Grime off as totally irrelevant today are not only ignoring the continuing influence the genre has across the musical spectrum, but also missing out massively on the scores of new talents coming out of the underground scene.