Is Grime Getting Better?
I've been wanting to write this one for a while. It's a difficult topic to tackle with my limited frame of reference but what the hey...
For quite a while, as far as I was concerned, grime was (i) something I read about on blogs; (ii) something I couldn't actually get to hear. During this period my expectations were extremely high and constantly growing.
Although drum'n'bass (still!) has quite a following in Vancouver, UK garage never caught on AT ALL. So, it took a while for grime to arrive on these shores. When it did, I didn't even notice. Honestly, I didn't realise that The Streets, Dizzee Rascal and Wiley were considered to be grime artists. When the penny dropped my reaction was pretty much: "Is that IT??? They ain't even that grimey!"
I was shocked and disappointed when I still didn't get it after hearing the first volume of "Run the Road". Simon Reynolds even went so far to say something along the lines of "if you don't like this comp, then you don't like grime." The only explanation I could come up with was that I'd been out of the UK for too long and that I simply had no context to fit this music into. Grime, after all, is All About context.
Things have changed a bit since then. This is partly due to expectation adjustment: it's not as great as I thought it would be but it's not all that bad either. It's also partly down to my growing acceptance of the fact that really great music can be - and often is - unintentionally funny. Actually, the best stuff (and The Fall are a perfect example of this) is often both unintentionally funny AND intentionally funny. My point is, if you don't fuckin' love "Pies" then you seriously need to get over yourself, hipster.
I only really started to dig grime unreservedly after Reynolds sent me a bunch of his CDR comps (in exchange for some primo English folk). To my surprise the stuff I liked best was the more recent stuff, rather than the classic hits - particularly tracks from the first half of 2005. This seemed odd as the bloggers who had turned me onto things grimey had recently started claiming the genre had pretty much run its course.
So why does this new stuff connect with me more than the epochal cuts? Here are a few initial thoughts and possible factors:
1. Trim, Trimbal, Trim Trimothy... This guy is a fucking genius and the first truly great MC to come out of the scene. He is the Ghostface of Grime.
2. More like 90s hip-hop than noughties R&B: slower tempos; more dissonant; darker; more complex rhymes.
3. Occassional triplets. The riddim makers have discovered this simple shorthand for "experimental" and that Prefuse 73 bloke is going to have to find another gimmick with which to justify his existence.
4. Less in-yer-face annoying. I am a 32 year-old white man who spends most of his time at home playing with his cat. I mean, C'MON!
That's all I can come up with for now. Questions, comments wanted, please.