Grime formula: The industry gets something that really shakes things up

Every so often, something happens to the music industry. That shakes everything up and breaks all the rules. Linkin Park’s recent collaboration with Stormzy. Because this highlights just how big a wave grime has made. The explosion of grime into the mainstream has been so fascinating to watch. That it would be easy to think of it as an anomaly. In reality, the rise of grime was hardly different to the rise of punk before it and rock and roll before that.

The key ingredients which big new genres all share are a totally new. And, for some, unsettling sound or instrumentation. A rebellious or anti-establishment attitude. Ans Finally a new technology which changed how music was shared or listened to. Rock and roll controversially fused black and white musical traditions in the southern United States.

This began around the 1930s. A time when race relations were transforming American society. Which was still reeling from the impacts of the American Civil War. Technologically, the invention of the electric guitar and advances in audio recording were what propelled this fusion. Rock and roll, with all its subgenres and successors, was born.

Punk And Grime

The story of punk rock is similar, if not more politically oriented. It was a case of recycling the sounds of the time and putting it back together. In a way that told a story. Young people growing up in 70s and 80s. Britain were disturbed by an unstable economy. As well as the threat of nuclear obliteration and growing social alienation. 

Grime also follows this formula perfectly. By the new millennium, it was becoming increasingly possible to create music. From your bedroom. On a small, inexpensive computer. This new instrument became a voice for the most impoverished communities of London and beyond. Grime lashed out at the status quo and told the story of hardship. Also gangs, poverty and violence that was everyday life for its founders and fans. For a long time grime was held beneath the surface by journalists and the music industry. Who dismissed the music as drug and violence glorifying. The more gigs and events that were shut down by the police. Also the more its appeal broadened. Until we found ourselves watching Skepta walk on stage and pick up a Mercury Prize. Rock and roll, punk, grime, what’s next?

Joseph Matthews
Joseph Matthews
Written by Dana Miller, Head of Music News for GSGM

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