View From The Side: The Problem With Grime
This summer I’m going to Dimensions Festival for the first time, I’m excited. I’ve spent the last two years at Outlook, and both of those occasions have been insane, ridiculous, whirlwind festivals, without a shadow of a doubt the best I’ve been to. That little spit of land that houses an ancient fort really is a special place to hold a festival, nothing I’ve experienced comes close to Outlook, despite the aggy Croatian security and slightly expensive drinks. There is one thing however, that’s put me off this year; I’m not going to be popular for saying this, but it’s Grime.
Now, before I begin I feel like I need to make one thing absolutely crystal clear: I haven’t got a problem with Grime whatsoever, in fact I quite like a lot of it. It’s been an integral part of my exploration of Dance music and has without a doubt had a profound impact on me.
The problem I have though, is with the hypey, gun finger, everyone go nuts and act really aggressively because you recognise this particular bastardisation of Pulse X Grime. The sort of mindless, in your face Grime that, to me anyway, seems all too prevalent. You know, the sort of Grime that’s ever ever so close to finally merging with Bassline.
When you compare the Outlook lineup of 2015 (my first, and favourite year) to the names announced so far this year the difference is immediately obvious. Headlining in 2015 were Jurassic 5, Beenie Man, Run The Jewels, Boy Better Know (yeaaaaahhh, I know), Moodymann etc. etc. As you look down the listings it’s a glorious mix of Drum & Bass, Dubstep, Jungle, Hip Hop, Reggae, Bass in general and yes, some Grime. This year’s edition tells a different story, the headliners include: Dizzee Rascal, Giggs, Wiley, Bugzy Malone, AJ Tracey… you get my drift.
At this point I would like to refer you to a report in Clash on the 2015 edition of the festival in which a particularly observant soul was quoted as saying “I feel like it’s all Skepta’s fault” in reference to the influx of white T-shirts and cross body Man(C*nt)Bags. It was evidently clear who was there for that Boy Better Know set, as well as the few other grime acts scattered across the bill. Here I think we have hit the crux of my problem, the epicentre of my dilemma if you will, it’s the crowd.
I actually really can’t stand the stereotypical Grime crowd that has seemed to flourish in recent times. The one that conforms to that image I’ve laid out above, they tend to be school leaver sort of age, male, skinny and unnecessarily aggressive. It’s this aggression that’s the worst, my experience of dance music has always been about sharing the moment with the people around you, or even simply wallowing in it by yourself. Not, as I have seen on more than one occasion, resorting to some form of ‘moshing’, whereby spatial awareness is completely tossed aside in favour of flailing limbs and a desperation to get as far forward as possible no matter what the cost.
In my opinion this particular kind of crowd changes the overall feel of a festival or night out for the worse, there appears to be less appreciation for the music and more just general hype. That's a word that fits my argument quite well actually, Grime is currently riding a tsunami of hype flooding in from all corners, it's the 'in thing', and people are jumping aboard the bandwagon in their droves. This frenzy of excitement seems to spill over in to the way people respond to the music itself, and as a result the dynamic of the event they're at.
There is an awful lot of good Grime music out there, particularly when you look back at older stuff (Dizzee’s Boy In Da Corner for instance), but even now artists like Trim and Riko Dan are doing incredible things for the underground scene, as is the Bandulu gang with their blend of the sound with more Dubsteppy influences. There is also some stuff out there that I really cannot get on board with, such as the vast majority of recent Skepta releases, the aforementioned endless Pulse X and Rhythm ’n’ Gash refixes, as well as producers seemingly hell bent on recycling old Wiley samples until there’s physically no more ways to use them.
I view a lot of Grime nowadays as being produced mainly for the Hype surrounding the genre, rather than it’s initial groundbreaking, anti-mainstream ideals. This is pretty unavoidable really, as it has made it’s transition into popularity and the charts it has become part of the very thing it was resisting against in the first place, it’s this seismic shift that is fuelling the kind of crowds I’m talking about. It happened with House a few years ago, Dubstep before that and now it’s Grime.
Along with all of this has come an apparently boundless popularity (just look at Stormzy's debut album), that is only growing by the day. As Grime is adopted more and more by mainstream culture I can easily see why festivals are clamouring to book the next big thing tied to the genre.
Of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinions on music (and just about everything else), but when a festival’s vibe changes so much from one year to the next it is hard not to attribute that to an increase in the genre that appears to have attracted the majority of the key players in said change. At a festival that promotes genres who’s core messages are of peace, love and unity it’s a sad thing that I don’t feel this is represented across the board there anymore. I do still love you though Outlook.