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Modern Life: What is Grime?

Features | September Issue


The new British rap

Grime is a native strain of rap music that emerged in east London in the early years of the 21st century. Like punk and opera, it is designed to sound confusing and repellent to those outside its social in-group. Grime evokes gangs of youths promising to do something inscrutably painful to each other, as multiple car alarms sound in the undercroft of bleak housing estates.Yet its stars have won Ivor Novello awards, scored multiple number one singles and inspired an upsurge of democratic participation among urban youth. In many ways, grime is an English cousin of American hip-hop. It shares similar notes of menace and de ance. Lethal Bizzle’s underground hit ‘Pow’ (2004) was banned from dance oors for its tendency to start ghts – and it celebrates similar themes of authenticity, lyrical panache, local/racial pride and entrepreneurship. But its stars prefer unvarnished realism to braggadocious fantasies, and tend to reject...

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