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History Lesson – Eski Beat to Grime Music

Posted by Molli Fire on Tuesday, 27March07

You have most likely heard of Lady Sovereign. You may have also heard of Dizzee Rascal. In the US we would tend to call that style of music hip-hop, because here, that’s what we call any music with words rapped over it. In the UK they currently call this style grime. It has words rapped over music like hip hop does, but the music is more clubby than most american hip hop. Grime’s basslines are incredibly heavy and rolling, like synthesizer melodies made for subwoofers. The beats are a 2-step breakbeat and the overall tempo is between 130-140 bpm. The words are rapped aggressively fast, double time to the music. Grime, like hip hop, incorporates sampled elements from all over the place – piano bits, guitar riffs, glockenspiels, record scratching, etc. But unlike hip hop, grime was influenced by UK Garage, drum and bass, ragga, and jungle. These forms of music are very full and rich forms of electronica, whereas most hip hop tends to be a bit more sparse, often sounding like the original instrument that was sampled. More to the source, Grime is completely influenced by it’s first creator – Wiley, the Grandfather of Grime.
When Wiley first created this new sound in 2000, he was calling it “Eski-beat” and himself the “Eski-boy”. He was a mentor to Dizzee Rascal who was just a teen at the time, listening to Wiley, and trying out his own voice and hands on the machines. Both Wiley and Dizzee presented this new sound to mainstream record labels at the same time, and both had an album released by XL Records in 2003, Wiley’s Tredding On Thin Ice and Dizzee’s Boy In Da Corner. Boy In Da Corner received the Mercury Music Prize in the same year. In 2002 another grime hit, “Oi” by Lethal Bizzle debuted at #7 in the UK Singles charts. Lethal B’s next big hit, “Pow (Forward)” also known as “Forward Riddim” was released in 2005. It debuted at #11 in the UK Singles charts and #1 in the UK Dance chart.

Grime still hasn’t made it really big in the mainstream though, then again, it’s only about 7 years old. As a music scene and genre, that isn’t very long at all. What that basically says is that one guy created a new style of music, and that created a movement that was noticed in less than 2 years. You could almost say that it peaked 3 years ago, but that wouldn’t be including what’s coming up this year and what’s to come in the next 10-20 years. When Alex Bok Bok asked Wiley about this in his recent interview, Wiley responded : “Nahh, it takes time, it takes ten, fifteen, twenty years to build a scene. Which is another reason why I retired, because I thought ‘you know what, I’m 28 – when it’s peaking I ain’t even going to be here’. I don’t want to be Grandmaster Flash. So nah, grime hasn’t had its day. It’s got ages. It’s been five or six years. So it’s got 14, and in 14 I’ll be… well I’ll be old. [lol]”

Retired? The founder of grime music is retiring in it’s 7th year? Well, anyone who puts out albums makes a lot of moey and retire at age 28, lucky them. Well, yes, and no.

Wiley is retiring. Not from music overall, but definitely from the gime scene. Grime is a super competetive and dangerous scene. There is a lot of pressure to keep producing rapid fire hits. If one guy puts out a song, you have to put out a better one, and it keeps going like that. The parties in London that used to play and promote this music (still called “raves” even though the focus is not on techno, house, or ecstacy) have basically closed up because of violence. Too many kids got stabbed at various shows, so the scene has mostly moved out of London. But the heart of the music is in London, and there seems to be a trend of grime producers losing that heart when they leave. Wiley is staying in London, but now he has 2 adorable daughters to think of. He can’t be dodging bullets and knives, and he doesn’t want his daughters to go through that either. That doesn’t mean Wiley is getting old though! He’s only 28, and he is super excited about the kids who comprise the next generation of grime producers and mc’s. When i say kids, i am referring to the fact that most up and coming grime artists are between 15-20 years old. i really do mean kids. And this is who Wiley is working with, the youth of tomorrow, no sign of slowing down and getting old.

As for the money that follows fame, Wiley sees it more as a corruption of the art. In his own words, from the interview with Alex Bok Bok again : “…you make your best music is when you’ve got no money.” And a moment later : “…you should take low money up front. It’s not bad. A Sony label would just throw money at them and they think ‘we’re in business’, but in actual fact they’re not. Low money is the best thing you can take, I promise you. I don’t know why I didn’t go for it before, just say ‘you know what I don’t want 100 grand, just give me 20 and I’m just going to make that album, and do the work, and fulfil the terms’. Because otherwise if I’ve got 100 grand or 200 I’ll just be so happy that you might not see me for a few years. So low money is a good thing.” And referring to how he sold records out of his car in London, before landing any record deals, he told Alex : “Loads, over 50,000. For those whole two years I just had loose change in my pockets the whole time. That was the best time of my life, where I earned all my own money. And then I got a record deal, and I just had too much money. I was too young! I didn’t know what to do with all that money! I’ll be honest with you, I really didn’t. And I didn’t really have a figure telling me what to do with it. I had people in my ear saying ‘buy property! (oh and lend me five hundred)’.”

It’s a great interview, with loads more info and perspective, you should check it out on the lower end spasm blog at dot-alt.blogspot.com. I don’t want to print to much of it here, coz it’s Alex’s interview and you should definitely give his blog the hits. I just wanted to give you a little insight into Wiley’s mentality and tempt you to go read the rest.

Realistically, Wiley is going to escape the rat race, keep making music, support the youth, and watch what other grime artists are doing. Up until know, everyone has been watching Wiley for what’s happening in grime. This will reverse that focus.

So, what is happening in grime, i hear you asking. enough of this history lesson, what can we expect in 2007? A lot! 2007 will see full grime albums from Wiley, Dizzee, Lethal Bizzle, Skepta, Roll Deep, Kano, and more. This will probably be grime’s peak in the mainstream thus far. And if you hadn’t heard of grime yet, you heard it here first! This is your chance to be on top of the trend early!

Roll Deep’s album, Rules and Regulations, was released yesterday and already has impressive reviews. The entire album can be heard on Roll Deep’s official myspace page. You can also read more about them and the album in my previous post Grime Explosion. One review for the album is in the Independent, and Boomkat gives you a review, previews, and you can order the album from them! Roll Deep Crew will be playing at the Love Music Hate Racism schools trip on April 20 in London.

Wiley is finished with his last album as MC and producer, Playtime’s Over and it is in Big Dada’s hands now. Big Dada calls it “his best work to date by a long way and is very much the album we hoped for.” i knew this one was gonna be a banger! you can hear a preview of “50/50”, the first single on the album, by going to Big Dada’s website and turn the music on. The album is still set to release on June 4th. The song 50/50 describes how cool and punk rock Big Dada is, and how it fits with Wiley’s philosophy on money and record deals. For more info on Wiley and the upcoming album, see my previous post, Wiley’s Last Solo Album. His single “Pies” is still the best, top notch best, example of grime music.

Dizzee’s upcoming album, Math’s and English will be released on July 2nd, and features collaborations between him and Lily Allen, and him with Joss Stone. I also already reported on Dizzee’s involvement in the Arctic Monkey’s new release, “Brainstorm”. Wikipedia has a small sample of “I Luv U”, from his album Boy In Da Corner. You can hear more on Dizzee’s myspace page. The tunes on this myspace are not very grimey, they’re closer to regular hip hop.

Lethal Bizzle’s upcoming album Back to Bizznizz will be released in June 2007 by V2 Records.

thanks for reading, i hope you enjoyed this. feel free to comment or mogmail me feedback or further info, i will try to incorporate it into my next installment.

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One Response to “History Lesson – Eski Beat to Grime Music”

  1. bok bok said

    thanks for the props
    Dan Hancox deserves his name mentioned more than I do here, as he did most of the work this time round! But its nice of you to quite us and link to the blog

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