If 1991 is known as the year punk broke, then 2016 should forever be remembered as the year grime broke. Skepta becoming the first hip-hop artist to win the coveted Mercury Music Prize for his excellent album Konichiwa only confirmed that grime was here to stay. Every day the genre continues to grow with new artists from all over the UK making their mark on the scene. London might be known as grime’s ground zero but a fresh batch of young, hungry MCs are highlighting the genre’s national ubiquity. This week Bars takes a look at the scene’s up-and-comers. Finding a thrilling batch of new artists was easy. The hard part was scaling down to just five of them. But the ones we’ve chosen to feature this week are more than deserving. If you’re unfamiliar with grime or the UK hip-hop scene, then slap yourself out of that little cultural bubble and immerse yourself in a different stomping ground, bruv.
Go grime with BRUTS, Safone, Izzie Gibbs, Marcus Beats/Teddy Music, and IZ.E
01. BRUTS - 'Esta No Para'
BRUTS’ SoundCloud profile reads that he wants to “change the way people see UK hip hop forever”. That’s a big call, but you can’t call him out for ambition. The East London MC’s latest track ‘Esta No Para (This Don’t Stop’ should reassure any skeptic this rapper is for real. It’s a confident introduction for any newbie who doesn’t know where to start with UK hip-hop. The harmonious piano intro is a blatant red herring. BRUTS spits like an evil genius; while he’s tempered on the service you know he could erupt in flurry of teeth-splitting rhymes. ‘Esta No Para’ is the calm before the storm. BRUTS keeps his braggadocio at a controlled level. But perhaps he’s waiting for that one wack-job to push him over the edge. I dare you.
02. IZ. E - 'Man Don’t Wanit'
This song goes so fucking hard I just can’t even begin to describe. And I could barely find anything about this MC. He remains an absolute alluring mystery to me. All I have is “Man Don’t Wanit’ and the thrilling rush of headstrong adrenaline it provides. For one, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more intense bassline. Instead of the Drake or A$AP Rocky coos you’d expect to accompany such production (no disrespect, guys) we’ve got this London MC’s belligerent attack on the mic. It’s like someone forcefully dunking your head in water after you go to East London and unsuspectingly ask what grime is. The experience can be overwhelming, even for the experienced. That just shows you how hungry this MC is for recognition. It’s just a farce he hasn’t got it yet.
03. Izzie Gibbs - 'Henny + Pills'
Izzie Gibbs rhymes words. It’s as simple as that. He doesn’t need the snobbish ideas of progression to make him stand apart from the crowd—his incredible flow behind the mic already grants him that. His attacks are also nothing short of virulent. Listen to tracks such as ‘OFT’ or ‘Normal (Pipe Up)’ and you’ll understand that holding back or saving breath just isn’t an option for the East End MC. But whoever said a change of sound couldn’t hurt? Because ‘Henny + Pills’ is almost so uncharacteristically Gibbs that it sounds like a whole different artist. “Sipping on this Henny dealing with this suicide/ They don’t know half of the shit I’ve been through in life.” It’s an incredibly powerful statement from an MC that usually makes his mark through his confidence and imposing showmanship. The result is perhaps the first time Gibbs sounds like a vulnerable, three-dimensional human being. “Mum said I’ll be legendary/ I just don’t think they’ll get it until I’m dead and buried.” It’s a lax two-minute journey through the psyche of an artist many perceive to be indestructible. Perhaps admitting to vulnerability is the greatest show of strength.
04. Marcus Beatz + Teddy Music - 'Hours'
Ignore the fact that he’s built like a brick shithouse, because Marcus Beatz can spit more than a few bars. This low-key East End rapper truly makes a name for himself in the first few minutes of ‘Hours’. In true grime fashion, his bars are as rapid fire as they are impossible to decipher. Couple this with the equally volatile spits of Teddy Music and it’s intense. Musically speaking, this is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. ‘Hours’ is a perfect example of just how turbulent grime can be. Don’t even get me started in the production. It’s like Beatz and Teddy Music ripped the score off a chase scene from the new Fast and Furious movie and found a more suitable home for it in ‘Hours’. If you’re familiar with Teddy Music’s previous work, then ‘Hours’ would make you think immediately of ‘Ice’ or ‘Get Like This, Pt. 1’. If not, then shit. Strap yourself in.
05. Safone - 'Heard Of'
Safone is just one example of grime tacking a step outside the hallowed turf of London. “I’ve got grime that nobody else ain’t heard of.” Straight off the bat, the Birmingham MC knows his work is different, and not just geographically speaking. ‘Heard Of’ is like an adrenaline shot to the spine. It’s the perfect soundtrack to g-ing yourself up before going into that wack-ass job interview you know you’re not going to get, but fuck it you’ll try anyway cause Safone could probably do it. As far as hunger goes, Safone is a young rabid wolf ready to make his mark on a scene nearing the cusp of worldwide recognition. “You v me, I don’t recommend… I’m the one it’s Matrix time.” Interpret that how you want, just grant him due respect, lower your head and back away.