Guns, Gangs & Grime – The History Of Grime
From pirate radio to the current Grime revival, we explore the history of Grime music alongside its affiliation with gang culture and guns.
History of Grime.
So what actually is Grime? Well it is derived from American Rap, UK Hip Hop, Garage, Jungle, Bassline and Two Step, surfacing in the early noughties in London thanks to pirate radio stations such as Rinse FM, broadcast from rooms generally located on estates in London such as Tower Hamlets, Peckham & Brixton. The term Grime was coined due to its ‘grimey’ sound taking traditional garage style beats down a darker instrumental path. Regardless of your own personal views it was notable artists such as Wiley who first got the media’s attention for Grime with songs like ‘What do you call it?’ or ‘Eskimo’ released in 2004 which referred to people wanting to purchase this new sound in record stores across London but not actually having a name for it hence, ‘What do you call it’?
Notable Early Artists.
New Grime artists gained huge commercial success with artists like Wiley, Lethal Bizzle, Dizzee Rascal & Kano producing hit after hit and the likes of Mike Skinner & The Streets collaborating with Grime artists across their albums. Dizzee was only 16 when he released ‘I Luv You’ in 2003, a clear cut sign that you didn’t have to have experience in the industry to get credit, just raw MC’in talent. With Grime becoming the phenomenon it did there were even Grime related channels such as Channel U playing 24/7 Grime, the early songs played are now known in the industry as Grime classics. Notable Grime producers were the likes of Danny Weed known for his instrumentals on Roll Deep’s ‘When I’m Ere’ with Skank Riddim and Creeper which got pumped out on many of the early pirate radio shows on Rinse FM.
Kind of like the mod revival in the early 1980’s, Grime never really went anywhere just more underground and has more recently appeared in the mainstream again. The new wave of grime reminds us what it was originally with a new era of artists stepping up to the mic such as Stormzy & Bugzy Malone. The scene has now spread its wings to the USA which was unheard of before especially with how big their own Rap and Hip Hop scene is. That in mind Grime is what it is, a unique sound still fresh from the estates of London boroughs attracting a very young following. It is now not uncommon to have Grime acts headlining at the major music festivals across the UK & Europe from its new appeal from the masses.
Early Grime saw baggy influences from the East & West Coast rap scenes from the US although with a subtle British finish, designer brands like Lacoste, Stone Island, Prada, Moschino and C.P. company were firm favourites. Sportswear has also always played a crucial role in Grime culture and fashion with brands like adidas Originals, Puma & Nike being big hitters with some of the brands now even having Grime artists as their ambassadors like adidas Originals with Stormzy and Krept & Konan with Puma. Sneakers have also been big business in the Grime scene with the Nike Air Max and Nike Shox getting repped in pretty much every Grime video of the mid noughties. Headwear has seen 5 panel hats matched with tracksuits and then the notorious hood which led to the whole ‘Hoody’ culture.
Gangs & ‘Hoody Culture’.
Did the hoody culture come from Grime?? Yes and no, the hoody culture and gang culture was already in existence across the UK with estate gangs already taking their Postcode as gang identity. When the Grime came scene came you could say it was already part and parcel of the culture, giving the Grime scene a sinister backbone of stabbings, muggings, beefs and shootings. With Grime the gangs now had a voice to shout about their struggles and social problems to a wider audience, the end result was more shootings, more stabbings and more deaths. So did Grime latch onto gang culture or did gang culture latch onto Grime, its hard to say for definite but the two were never that far away from each other.
By the mid noughties the problem had got out of control with more gangs appearing than ever before, drug pedalling, anti social behaviour, violence and gun crime were every day occurrences across inner City estates across the UK. What music were they generally influenced by? Grime. A lot of the lyrics talk about ego’s, respect, money, bling, cars, women, guns & violence which are extremely impressionable to any poverty stricken youths with poor parenting and an angry outlook on life. Gaining respect became more important than going to school and to be part of a gang meant they now had a family to look after them. And with that they felt they had respect so would do anything to earn it and keep it.
The hoodie was now the symbol of Grime with videos like Roll Deep ‘When I’m Ere’ showing every member of Roll Deep wearing the same black Nike hoody with the hood up. Predominately black youths were reporting excessive stop and searches from the Police across estates all over the UK labelled as anti social for their attire and the whole scene they were connected with. The Mitchell Brothers song ‘Routine Check’ featuring Mike Skinner from 2005 addressed the daily hassle black youths were experiencing from the authorities.
The message of the Police and local authorities was clear, and that they felt threatened by the culture with the the likes of the Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent and others even banning the hoody altogether from their premises in 2005.
The connection with Guns, Gangs & Grime was spiraling out of control so artists like Roll Deep brought the attention of anti gun violence to their listeners in their song ‘Badman’ released 2007 portraying a young hoodlum looking for the ‘bad man’ status through respect. Parents across the country were uniting who had lost their loved ones to gun crime and then the authorities stepped in. Estates were made safer places to live with more police patrols and higher sentences for anti-social behaviour, films like Harry Brown released in 2009 starring Plan B and Michael Caine showed what real life Estates had become in London and how they could be changed for the better.
In other similar cultural grime features you can check out our feature exploring what is a roadman.