2016 was a seismic and monumental year for Grime, it was a year which consolidated the progress the Grime scene had made in 2015 and took things much further with success in areas that seemed impossible in times past. 2016 created many memorable moments and interesting talking points that had the fans hooked and captivated, it was a year that saw the good, the bad and the ugly all packed together to create an emotional rollercoaster of events, truly an spectacular twelve months. Having to pick ten moments that stood out wasn’t going to be an easy task considering the scale of the activity that happened last year but here are those moments that really caught our attentions in 2016.
Skepta Winning the Mercury Award.
Skepta had an incredible 2016, his album ‘Konnichiwa’ which dropped in May went gold as it sold over 100,000 copies since its release and as a result of that album, it propelled the Tottenham and Boy Better Know MC to sublime success in September when he became the winner of the 2016 Mercury Prize Award, a simply stunning victory considering the late David Bowie was the favourite the win the award for his ‘Blackstar’ album which was released just two days before he died last year. Skepta winning the award showed the music industry in the UK that you don’t have to be signed onto a major label to gain critical acclaim as Skepta’s DIY approach to the putting his project together paid off, Konnichiwa’s authenticity and refusal to fall in line with the status quo are key reasons why it gravitated with so many people.
Drake Co-signing Dave “Wanna Know”
The UK urban music scene thrived last year, seeing more of an celebration of the music that is made here and the celebration of the artists responsible for creating this sense of pride and identity that the UK really does have some major talent. A trend that happened last year were collaborations between artists from the UK and the US with American artists more receptive than ever of the growing influence of the likes of rap and grime. OVO head honcho Drake is a guy who fully understands the significance of the music being made this side of the Atlantic so when he remixed the song ‘Wanna Know’ made by rapper Dave in October, it made quite the stir. For Dave at only 18 years old to pick up a co-sign from one of the biggest rappers in the world right now is incredible.
Glastonbury Hosting a Grime Takeover.
Grime’s festival success in 2016 was something that to be honest was coming. With more radio stations playing grime music, more artists achieving mainstream success in terms of the charts as well as racking up gargantuan numbers on YouTube and Spotify and the thunderous ferocity of grime sets with a new breed of MC’s forging the way to go down, it seemed inevitable that festival organisers would pay attention to the trend and recognise the need to exposure these exciting artists to wider audiences.
To be able to do that at a place like Glastonbury though is basically like Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. To see the genre being championed and represented at such a high-status event and seeing just how popular it has become respects the cultural influence grime has had in recent times. Charlie Sloth remarked that a big reason why there’s been this positive shift towards grime is ownership. “The artists have finally realised that it’s our way or no way at all. I feel that has given [Grime] the credibility and the platform to move things forward.” Grime’s presence at Glastonbury brought together the talents from both the old and new schools of grime, lighting up the Sonic Stage with captivating performances from Stormzy, Kano, Bugzy Malone, Boy Better Know, Nadia Rose and Section Boyz. Grime and rap too propelled to a wider scale, the hordes of revellers in the crowds mesmerised by the bars and flows twinned by what the culture had to offer, the culture now is so strong, it’s impossible not to accept and get behind it. The times where the energy in the air overawed people alien to the sound are over. Grime’s here and it’s ready to ascend to new heights in the near future, the future is bright.
Skepta’s Headline Show at the Alexandra Palace.
It wasn’t just ‘Konnichiwa’ that created waves in 2016 for Skepta. In December, he sold out his headline event at the Alexandra Palace with performances from JME, Lethal Bizzle, Abra Cadabra, Giggs, Wretch 32, Section Boyz & more with Skepta performing his greatest hits. The Ally Pally show was a significant one because it shows where the genre is right now in the sense that it’s ready to stage shows in the most revered of venues. This artist-led rebirth has ignited new life into the UK music scene, it gives people variety and more importantly when you put the music first, you end up with bodies of work that are more relatable hence why fans can be hypnotised by every word Skepta or any of the other promoters screamed, shouted or sung with every last bit of air in the lungs. For the crowd there and the millions of people live-streaming the event, this was a momentous and unforgettable occasion. This was a triumph for grime, a celebration against conformity, Skepta even portrayed his uncompromising undertones with graffiti inspired billboards promoting the event. Ally Pally marked a truly unforgettable year for Skepta, he’s set a very bar for himself to follow in 2017.
Dizzee Rascal performed Boy In Da Corner in the UK.
Boy In Da Corner is an iconic album and body of work, its unique and profound nature laid the foundations of Dizzee Rascal’s career, earning him the Mercury Award in 2003. When he announced that he would be doing a special performance of the album in New York, fans in the UK were devastated to found out that Dizzee had no plans to perform his Boy In The Corner concert in the UK but after a petition championed by Complex’s Laura Brosnan which gained thousands of signatures, Dizzee finally agreed to perform in October at the Copper Box in London. Boy In The Corner inspired a generation in a time when the genre of Grime was at it’s most rawest, the tones and the themes that featured in it resonated with many people of different backgrounds so it’s not a surprise that alot of fans were desperate to witness this once in a lifetime event. Seeing Dizzee re-create those reminiscing memories in a situation as rare as this brought about an array of emotions, it’s crazy to think how far the scene has come from those uncertain times where the genre originated from.
Chip vs. Yungen Beef.
It wouldn’t be Grime if there wasn’t beef in the scene. Clashes between MC’s light up the scene with them dropping war dubs and the fans eagerly awaiting when the next ones go live. 2016 saw the beef between Chip, fresh from his beef with Manchester MC Bugzy Malone and Play Dirty’s Yungen. This was a bitter beef that started in 2015 which spilled over into last year, Chip is famed for not running out of bars and not backing down from any clash so from an outsider’s point of view, it might have seemed that Yungen was the underdog but from his ‘Comfy’, ‘Punk’, ‘Oopsy Daisy Riddim’ and ‘Away Games’ dubs, Yungen proved he could hold his own although getting Tinie Tempah to feature in one of your dubs might not have been the greatest of ideas or attracting criticism about ‘Punk’ being pre-recorded or being randomly caught getting chased, dropping his Nando’s order in the process because Chip was determined not to hold the L in this clash, his ‘One Take’, ‘Lil Clive’, ‘Lil Clive 2’ and ‘Peri Peri Sauce’ dubs definitely proved once and for all that Chip does not run out of bars with every barb that Yungen used against Chip carefully dealt with and quashed, to be honest, Tinie came out of this war holding more Ls than Yungen.
Stormzy on the Front Cover of i-D Magazine
This year saw Grime break new boundaries, one of those boundaries was that for the first time, the scene was being taken more seriously from a visually artistic point of view. Magazines were increasingly more willing to include grime artists in their editions. For Stormzy, a man who has had an abundance of support and acclaim made history in 2016 as he became the first grime artist to feature on the front cover of the prestigious i-D magazine, an impressive feat. Grime’s artistic nuances blew up last year, a cultural renaissance sparked up with photography especially documenting the moments that would normally go over our heads. The fusion between grime’s independent, underground aura and fashion was a welcome surprise with people’s eyes being opened to a more abstract form a the genre growing in authenticity and maturity.
Kano’s Fire In The Booth.
It’s crazy to think that an MC of Kano’s calibre hadn’t done a Fire In The Booth but that changed in March last year as he graced the booth for the first time and to say his performance was inspired is an understatement. The Fire In The Booths in 2016 birthed some astonishing performances with word-play, delivery and brutal confidence displayed of the highest quality and while the articulate bars of seasoned Fire In The Booth veterans like Wretch 32, Big Narstie, Chip and Akala aren’t exactly a revelation, the way that Kano snapped as he sprayed bars upon bars to the sheer disbelief of Charlie Sloth watching was a magical moment. It was like he had something big to get off his chest, the way he spraying bars was akin to the way a pastor would preach to his congregation during a church service, when you really deeped the meaning of what he was rapping about and realised the depth in their quality, it created a moment of wonder. At the time, Kano was coming off the back of dropping his ‘Made In The Manor’ album as well as gearing up for his March tour of the UK. The album even earned Kano a nomination for the Mercury Award alongside Skepta, the fact that two of grime’s icons had both made the cut for the nominations list for an award as respected as the Mercury Prize shows the staggering scale of success that grime has had.
Skepta ‘Greatness Only’ Documentary
The definitive documentary unfolding the ups and downs Skepta has had to go through in his career. Presented by his sister Julie Adenuga, the documentary chronicles of his childhood, describing his musical influences as a child to his darkest days in “#UnderdogPsychosis no.1” where he had an identity crisis, feeling like he wasn’t being true to himself in an industry full of people dictating to do how an artist should act. That was the turning point where Skepta started the process of taking the power back. Greatness Only showed the risks that Skepta took to master his craft as well as fully accepting the person he was and not pandering to anyone, going on a journey of self-discovery that reawakened the raw, gritty mentality that stained the old era of grime inside of Skepta. With features from those involved in the making of ‘Konnichiwa’ as well as those part of his inner circle, Greatness Only in an inset into the trials and tribulations that Skepta has undertaken to be the man he is today, the successes he had last year proving that hard work and determination go a long way towards making dreams come true.
— Beats 1 (@Beats1) December 12, 2016
Sir Spyro ‘Topper Top’
Legendary grime producer and DJ Sir Spyro has been a stalwart in the scene for more than ten years. The funny thing about this moment is that ‘Topper Top’, the song which got the fans whipped up in a frenzy was actually two years old already but when Spyro finally dropped it on the Deep Medi Musik label in September, it was a wait well worth waiting for. The track which features the enigmatic Teddy Bruckshot alongside Lady Chann and Killa P has over 250,000 plays on Spotify and as part of the ‘Topper Top’ EP managed to sell out all of its vinyl records and its subsequent represses in next to no time. Make no mistake, this track is nightclub killer, DJs who play this song instantly have to reload to stop it from licking off the heads of the ravers pon di place. The video that marked its release was pretty impressive as well with cameos aplenty in the video, a truly remarkable moment.