Skepta and Stormzy – leading Grime’s renaissance

Rebecca Keane

Credit: Mobo

When one hears the word grime, we immediately think of Dizzee Rascal, Wiley and Lethal Bizzle – the usual suspects.

However, anyone thinking the original prophets of British grime will bring the genre to the grave with them when they grow grey and old would be categorically wrong.

Mainstream radio and grime have had something of a tumultuous affair, with radio picking and choosing on an on and off basis in regards to what songs they deem suitable for the masses.

I remember first hearing more diluted, pop versions of grime on Starz Music – Dizzee’s ‘Dance Wiv Me’ with serial banger merchant Calvin Harris and Skepta’s ‘Rolex Sweep’. Their voices and sounds were like nothing that I’d heard of before, but all I knew was that I wanted more. Whenever either songs came on, I became entranced but younger me could never predict the renaissance of grime that artists such as Skepta and Stormzy would bring.

Skepta’s recent Mercury Prize win certainly wipes the slate clean for the earlier Rolex Sweep which left some diehard grime fans a little less than impressed. The 34-year-old artist has become something of a veteran of the grime genre, working long and hard on both his own and other artists’ work to ensure productions of the highest quality.

Having worked on albums such as Greatest Hits, Microphone Champion, and Doin’ It Again, it was not until May 2016 that the Brit would become a household name with the raw yet polished Konnichiwa. Tracks such as ‘That’s Not Me’ and ‘Shutdown’ demanded to have people recognise the clarity, the sharpness and the soul Skepta creates and illuminates his music with, in so far as winning him the prestigious Mercury against candidates such as David Bowie, Laura Mvula, The 1975, Radiohead and Michael Kiwanuka.

Skepta’s win not only shone the light on his craft and skills, but also the entire genre he plays such an integral part in. With artists like he and Stormzy – it begs the question… why aren’t more people listening to what these guys have to say? The two at the forefront of the movement have worked long and hard and it seems only fair that the pair are finally getting the praise and the radio play they deserve.

Stormzy, a self-professed fan of Skepta, first emerged at the tender age of 20 on Jools Holland with ‘Not That Deep’. The young rapper captivated the public from his early releases like ‘Know Me From’ and ‘Shut Up’ and going from both his social media and interviews, it’s easy to see why. The 23-year-old is open, honest and caring when it comes to tweeting fans, inviting fans to his birthday party or even his hilarious Snapchat account. Stormzy’s long hiatus from April 2016 to the recent release of Gang Signs and a Prayer certainly built anticipation in the droves of Stormzy’s dedicated fans which shows his likeability and relatability to people of all ages and cultures.

When it comes the very bassline of grime, both Stormzy’s and Skepta are primes example of people the children of today can look up to. From the former’s Snapchats proclaiming his love for Louis Theroux, his greetings to Bradley Walsh on the red carpet at the Brits and his interviews discussing topics such as depression in such an open, caring manner, to the latter’s devoted connections to communicating with friends on Twitter and Instagram.

Both artists, Skepta and Stormzy and indeed other grime artists are making the music of daily conversation. We can see this in Stormzy’s Lay Me Bare where he cries out to God for help with his mental health issues, something many young people struggle with today.

So with two chart-topping artists – why aren’t more people listening to grime? What will it take for two formidable men like Skepta, Stormzy and others to finally get the praise and applause they deserve?

With England being the birthplace of the genre, it only makes sense that those involved in expanding the genepool of grime will have their fans and friends as their biggest supporters. In Ireland however, grime still struggles to get airplay on our Irish stations. Not to make excuses but it is worth bearing in mind that Irish artists themselves have a hard time getting their songs played – so we can only hope and pray that it is sooner rather than later that we hear the voices of Skepta and Stormzy on our radios.

Rebecca Keane