When Grime met black history

It’s that time of the year- Black History Month. Although we take this time to celebrate black icons, black legends, and those who pioneered black history and fought for black rights, the richness and beauty of our culture could never be restricted to just one month . Everyday there are new influences emerging into black culture and new achievements made. Recently Skepta won the 2016 Mercury prize for his album ‘Konnichiwa’, making him the first Grime act to win this award since Dizzee Rascal in 2003. What makes Grime music such a significant part of black British culture is the fact that it was home-grown, born In East London 15 years ago. A hybrid of Jungle, Drum and Bass, Garage and Dancehall. Grime has been a major influence in shaping a new urban generation, and the urban music scene in Britain.

In recent years Grime has been taken out of its localized context and is now enjoyed outside of London. There’s no doubt that the genre continues to grow in popularity, not just within the United Kingdom but also around the world. Including countries such as Canada and Japan, just to name a few…I KNOW… Japan right? It’s mad! However despite Grime’s positive growth, the genre has fallen under scrutiny by those unfamiliar with its unique sound or history, and associate Grime with negative stereotypes.

As part of a study I carried out earlier this year, I explored insider perspectives, interpretations and meanings from fans. The purpose was to gain an insight into what Grime meant to Grime listeners.


The study highlighted that for many, Grime shaped a new British identity, one which was unorthodox and far from traditional. They encountered a unique connection with Grime in particular because it was an honest representation of the London that they knew and had grown up in. This enabled the listener to resonate with the sound, the lyrics and the MC. For them Grime music was a vocal enlightenment, narration and expression of the daily issues associated with neglected communities. One which was disguised by an up tempo pace, heavy bars and unruly gritty sounds which misled many outsiders to perceive the genre as negative and aggressive.

Perhaps what is most interesting and significant about Grime music, is that despite its growth and popularity within major cities like London and international popularity, the genre still struggles to achieve mainstream recognition by many major UK music platforms. Some have deemed Grime as ‘too urban’, perhaps a euphemism for ‘too black’ maybe? Although MC’s such as Skepta and Dizzee have broken some barriers, the genre continues to be ignored and goes unrewarded by platforms such as The Brits. However throughout the history of black art, black fashion and black culture what is fascinating is that we do not require a stamp of approval from elite groups to define us or our work. Our talents continue to flourish and our growth continues to expand without it. This is what Grime music continues to do.

By Melica Lashley    @MelicaLashley   @LashItOutUK


The Move

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