There's been all sorts of chat of a grime revival. Meridian Dan has paved the way, and the chronological distance from the original Bow based Big Bang will do the rest. I can’t wait. When I go to mainstream clubs now, what I see and hear is so far from grime’s jokes and menace that I feel completely bewildered. Is this what kids like? Where’s the thuggery? Where’s the laughs?
I was thinking about this after playing at the Corsica Studios last night - I jumped on the decks with Tomfoolery, formally from Tomb Crew, and we played a set inspired, and containing grime, and the place went off. It was a Wednesday night, and no one cared - kids were payday raving in the middle of the week to booming Jersey Club dropped next to Skepta’s latest Eski Beat.
Afterwards we debated the greatest grime tunes of all time – and the big hits have been documented time and again elsewhere. I want to use this week’s column to talk about some of the lesser known hits of grime, the tracks that held record shops in thrall for a week, but didn’t register outside the local scene. Personally I’m biased – I used to shop in Independence on the Lee High Rd (check Wiley’s first album and you’ll see them name checked). As far as I know Independence had started life as a kiosk flogging garage 12s from the back of the Lewisham shopping centre in the late 90s. I remember getting arsey treatment when I naively asked for the drum & bass section – ‘drum & bass is dead’ was the reply, straight outta 1998. In time Independence moved to a shop on Lee High Rd, and there it became one of the stops on the grime map – not as central as Rhythm Division maybe, but a hub none the less. They provided me so many ot the tracks I'm writing about today, and deserve all the respect a great record shop is due.
Enough breeze, what about Mr Wong huh?
OI! Wong was the nuts. There’s a rumour he’s a bus driver now, but I dunno, the grime scene is full of shadey rumours. I can say that Mr Wong released a clutch of bangers, most famous of which was Orchestral Borroughs which stands up to this day-
Banger. Moving on, for pure raw MC energy, 16 Bar is hard to beat – just a hard, killer rhythm and a clutch of the scene’s greatest spitting fire. I can only find a truncated version on youtube which is a bit of a downer – 12s go for a fair bit of p these days, so you’ll just have to imagine the heat off the verses you don’t get in this clip:
SLK are widely known for their breakthrough hit Hype Hype, but it’s North Weezie that has the heads yammering for reloads. The beat’s nothing but military snare rolls and disgusting synth hits, and I can’t think of a single next track where someone shouting out their postcode has sounded so bloodthirsty
Southside All Stars is a real personal favourite – living in South London when it came out, I was really happy to hear a track eulogising the ends rather than banging on about Bow E3 – the first verse is made up entirely of South London boroughs forced into rhyme, and I can only assume that archivists researching noughties folk music in years to come will be far more likely to refer to this sort of thing than the anaemic shite Mumford & Sons peddle.
And finally, cos I’m running out of space, let’s hear it for the early instrumental cuts – Tu Tuff Crew’s square wave banger might be one of the first times the phrase ‘grimey’ was applied to wax (in this context anyway – I actually think they sampled the ‘grimey’ vocal from Dillinja’s D&B classic of the same name)– it sounds just as bolshy today as it ever did, pure parent scaring music, and a timely reminder of what the UK can produce when it stops pissing about being ‘smooth’ and ‘deep’..
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