It’s December again, and the world is just as fucked as ever. Possibly slightly more, possibly slightly less. I guess it’s easy to lose track of these things without an ordered list to tell you what to think.
Having been precariously perched on the 2015 bar stool for quite some time now, we’ll soon be staring down the menacing barrel of 2016. So how best to celebrate yet another successful orbit around the Sun?
We thought about publishing an objectively correct ranking of the year’s best records. But sadly we couldn’t get hold of any doof doof scientists to determine what the metrics should be.
Instead, we’ve fallen back on our Top 8 Whatevers. You know the score – our trusted team of R$N scribes pitch in with lists of music they’ve enjoyed, petty grievances they want to air, obscure interests they want to highlight. Basically whatever’s on their mind. Let’s do this.
Here's Ian McQuaid's Top 8 of 2015...
Back in ’03 the eye of grime’s hurricane was tightly focused over East London. Wiley used to knock out tracks named after his postcode (E3, fyi) and Dizzee Rascal had some of his greatest bars celebrating the place (“I socalise in Hackney or Bow// I wear my trousers ridiculously low.” Boom.). Come 2015 and the epicentre has, if not shifted, then at least widened. Obviously there are still plenty of MCs repping South (or North in the case of Boy Better Know), but there’s also been a whole lot of South London grime and road rap bangers that have blown up. Having lived and worked in record shops round Lewisham, nothing brings a fond tear to my eye like the sight of a Morley’s chicken shack appearing in a go-pro shot grime video. Here are 8 of my favourites. I’m making no apology that 4 of these tracks come from The Square’s camp, they’ve been on it all year.
Novelist – Novelist On Da Block
So this is pure South London genius – it’s footage of Novelist and his mates hanging round outside their block, playing a classic beat from the car stereo (Low Deep’s Cheeky Violin for those who were wondering) whilst Nov freestyles bars. Then in the dying seconds you can hear an irate housewife shouting, “Oi! How long’s this going on for then!” “5 minutes,” Nov replies, semi-sheepishly. It’s like Peggy Mitchell has started bollocking a grime shoot.
Blackie – Tun Up Never Tun Down
Easily the greatest track about Brockley ever written (to be fair the competition is limited to one), and FULL MARKS go for giving the chicken shop guy a decent cameo. Tun Up Never Tun Down is Blackie’s celebration that he’s turned 18, which makes him, in my bitter old man reckoning, a hatefully talented little shit.
67 – Take It There
67 are a Brixton crew making sinister street hits. Whoever’s knocking out their beats is specialising in gritty, nasty sounding rhythms that sound as introverted as skunk paranoia – there’s a bit of American trap influence, but also a vein of sickly, claustrophobic urgency that links them to grime. Unlike crews like The Square who make overtly grimey tracks, the style press hasn’t been in hurry to start salivating over road rap, and as such 67 have been championed by the streets and the streets alone – and this is still enough to get them nearly a million plays on a hood video in a handful of months.
Elf Kid – Golden Boy
Grime music in having fun shocker. Golden Boy has been out a couple of days and already it’s winning everything. The beat’s the greatest frantic fuck up of Amerie’s One Thing you could hope for, drums hitting too fast and horns all over the shop. Elf Kid (another of The Square’s alumni) grins his way round Deptford market, gets photo taken of himself with toothless, smiling grannies and generally carries on like he’s trying to get SB:TV to remake Only Falls & Horses. Possibly one of the greatest grime tracks of 2015 – definitely the most fun.
Nadia Rose – DFWT
So I ummed and ahhed over this, cos essentially it’s Nadia freestyling over a DJ Mustard beat rather than jumping on a UK production, but fuck it, it BANGS. Listen to how the Croydon MC switches between spitting and sing song delivery; it’s a level of skill that means if there’s any justice in the world (there isn’t, but still) you’re gonna be hearing more of her next year. She’s been shouting out Lauryn Hill’s influence on Twitter which can only be a good thing – I’d hazard it means she’s thinking about lyrics more than the x amount of next men talking about trapping and banging.
Section Boyz – Lock Arf
Section Boyz are one of the many road rap outfits that spent 2015 really fucking around with the music industry. They’re getting millions of plays on their videos, self-releasing mixtapes and breaking into the top 20, and doing all of this without any record executives getting a sniff of some soul snatching ‘360’ deal. If there were as many indie bands scoring huge underground hits, Radio 1 would be on them like white on rice, but for a zillion reasons road rap remains resolutely off the mainstream radar. Still Rita Ora’s bleating on about them now, so expect to hear a shitload more about Seciton next year. Here’s the place to start, South London street menace, pure quality.
The Square - Lewisham McDeez
It’s a tune about McDonalds in Lewisham. It’s got someone pretending to be a kung fu Ronald McDonald in the video. There’s a bit shot outside Percy Ingle’s, the bakery on Lewisham high street that sells truly disgusting sausage rolls. It’s the best.