Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Grime ain't noise pollution- UK rap invades the States

If about five or ten years ago, you told any hipster that English rap would be the next hot (not big) thing, you would have been ostracized for sure. Mind you, there were precedents that are mostly forgotten today (anyone remember Derek B?) but it wasn't until the Streets, Nirvana fan Dizzee Rascal and Wiley arrived recently that the style seemed legit. That wasn't just because they didn't sound like knock-off's of the American product but also because they were just as closely aligned with 2-Step/garage music, which meant that they could also tie into a club crowd- this potent mix gets tagged as Grime. Simon Reynolds lays out the M.O. of the style neatly as such: "grime really comes out of the rave tradition where the mc's job was to hype
the crowd and big up the dj but not really say much." As soon as all the "grime doesn't pay" headlines started piling up in music mags, you knew that the style had arrived.

Though it came out late last year in its homeland, the Run the Road compilation just came out here in the States on a major label (Atlantic), which shows you something about its clout now. Featuring the stars of the style, it only suffers in comparison to their own individual albums. I'd also recommend DJ Woody's Bangers and Mash collection on Woodwurk as a good sampler of the style.

The Streets and Dizzee had already made it to these shores (they did a great double bill at Irving Plaza a few months ago) but the rest of the herd followed up this Friday at Rothko in New York for "Grime Presents: Bangers & Mash 3." Though it was pretty leisurely and uncrowded for the DJ set at first, as the witching hour approached, the packed can't-move-your-arms aura set in when the MC's appeared. Reynolds also notes that back home, the shows weren't party event exactly, more populated by roughnecks. Here, the small crowd was hyped from the beginning, even when the first MC (Deadly Crisis) was being outpaced by the record he was throwing rhymes over- he sounded like Lil Jon tossing out occasional "yeah's." Though I couldn't pick out who was Jammer D, Double E or Ears, I wasn't alone. They're not household names yet, you know. When I did catch Double E later, his rapping sounded off. He'd go through a few rhymes rap fire, let someone else take over or let the DJ rewind or start another song. What the hell was happening? Was he winded or out of material? Maybe he was just teasing. As it went on, another impression set in. Just like Dizzee on his debut, he sounded claustrophobic, boxed in, yelling for space. He wasn't faking or pulling punches- just like Tricky at his best, he made a landscape out of a collapsing world.

One distressing thing I noticed was that although there was a good gender mix in the crowd, it was still very lilywhite. Not that I hadn't seen this before- at a New York Public Enemy show in '93, there were more black people on stage than in the crowd. I saw the same thing at Rothko for the Grime show. And that kind of thing really puzzles me. Why should these rap shows, of all places, be for whites only? I know, I know- white suburban kids are the biggest audience but still...


Blogger Matthew Perpetua said...

Well, in the case of the grime show, the majority of people aware of the music are white because the main way of finding out about it in the US is via the internet and specifically through music critics who take UK music seriously (those people tend to be white.)

Though it would be nice for there to be a greater diversity in the audience (I think that this ideally would go for any kind of music), I don't think that anyone should feel that the audience for something should be black simply because that's the race of the performer. I think that given the current hegemony of hip hop, there's room within hip hop for several sub-audiences. Grime is just one more alternative, and that alternative isn't yet being picked up on by black kids.

When I saw M.I.A. in NYC a couple months ago, the audience was fairly mixed.

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That Bangers and Mash CD isn't a Grime record. There is a huge difference between UK Hip-Hop and Grime, I swear I'm not just being pedantic Jason, totally different thing...

Matt Woebot.

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At home the Grime shows are 90% Black 5% Asian 5% White.

Matt Woebot.

10:15 AM  

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