UK Rap: Pretty noice, innit?

From Issue 7

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UK Grime legend Skepta.

When you think of rap today, your mind will probably immediately go to artists like Roddy Ricch, Kanye West, Cardi B, Drake, or Kendrick Lamar, just to name a few. One thing in common with all of these, though, is that all these artists hail from the U.S. One thing I’ve tried to do in the past year or so is to have an open mind with what I listen to and branch out as much as I can. One thing that I’ve started listening to in the past month or two has been UK rap or grime. It is definitely something much different than what I am used to, but it is something refreshing, a new sound filled with different accents and stories that I am glad to add to my library. 

When you think of the word “grime”, what comes to mind first? According to Dictionary.com, Grime has two definitions: one that relates to dirt, soot, or filth. The other, though, refers to something completely different; a genre of music that has defined UK rap for practically the last two decades. This is grime, a genre of electronic dance that emerged in London in the early 2000s. It developed from the earlier UK electronic music style called UK garage and draws influences from jungle, dancehall, and hip-hop. This alone has made a name for UK music, drawing the interest of people all around to the fascinations of what rappers like Skepta, Stormzy, and AJ Tracey have to say. While it is a genre all about diving into the dark side of urban life, that does not deny the fact that these artists create beauty out of madness. 

I will admit, it took me some time to really get into UK rap and start enjoying what I was listening to, but I eventually began to really dig it. Essentially, that’s what exploring new music is all about. One listen may or not do it for you, but coming back a day, a week, or even a month later could yield totally different results. I encourage everyone to try and listen to one new artist, song, or album that’s not apart of what you are used to listening to every month. You can see what you are missing out on since, of course, you can never listen to everything, but you can definitely try. 

Considering this is a much broader spectrum of music than the usual album review holds, I’ll recommend a couple of my favorite tracks and albums for you to check out. First off is Skepta, who is often referred to as the godfather of Grime for his veteran status in the scene and his huge influence he has had on British rap overall. Some tracks I’d recommend to start to get into him are “Kiss & Tell (feat. AJ Tracey)”, “Praise Da Lord (feat. A$AP Rocky)”, and “Bullet From A Gun”. Another artist I’d like to mention is Stormzy as he is another prominent artist in the Grime industry. Similar to Skepta in terms of lyricism and technique, his sound may be more appealing compared to Skepta’s. As a whole I’d recommend his newest album, Heavy is The Head, but for a few tracks to get into him with, I’d say “Do Better”, “Audacity (feat. Headie One)”, and “Lessons” are great examples of what sound Stormzy encompasses. 

So as a longtime listener of American rap, seeing what the other side of the ocean  has to offer has definitely been a new experience. It has given me a glimpse of the British culture that  I know so little about. It has shown me that besides the accents, slang, and the differing politics, lies people that are not much different than us, and they, too, have something to say.