Grime is the big thing in British music at the moment – as unlikely as that seemed a couple of years back. After years of underground raves and cult followings, the genre that is not hip hop has finally got the attention of the nation.
It’s also turning heads on the other side of the pond – partly thanks to Drake‘s recent album ‘More Life‘ which featured a handful of British collaborators such as London grime stars Skepta and Giggs.
Stormzy is another grime artist from the capital who has been a big part of the UK grime explosion. His feature on pop superstar Ed Sheeran‘s astronomically successful album ‘Divide‘ and Brit Awards performance have probably pushed him into the mainstream but his tracks ‘Shut Up‘ and ‘Big For Your Boots‘ set the world of grime alight long before that.
In a moment in time where grime, rap and hip hop is everywhere – from BBK to the Migos. It feels like indie, rock and any form of guitar-based music is being overshadowed. Especially in the states where artists like Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, Iggy Azalea and Gucci Mane are all putting out new music and grabbing headlines.
In dear old Blighty, it’s been equally as quiet in terms of new indie artists getting noticed. So you would be surprised to find out that the city home to a resurgence is the birthplace of grime, London.
I’m always hesitant to describe artists as being part of a ‘scene‘ or a ‘revival‘ because most take issue which being labelled as part of something and being categorised with a bunch of similar musicians. They would much rather their music be acknowledged on it’s own merit than because a music writer said it was part of some hyped-up, fictional ‘scene’. ‘Britpop‘ for example, was a word invented by journalists – you never heard Liam Gallagher walk out on stage and say “Hi, we’re Oasis and we play Britpop“.
However, sometimes you just get the feeling that something is happening and there’s a movement there. Whether it’s just about music, or it’s a combination with fashion, art, events etc etc…
Earlier this month, Hunger Magazine published an interview with newcomer Bakar. When asked if he felt like there was a new wave of guitar music on the horizon, he answered: “Most definitely, I feel like indie music has been on the back burner for a lil sec so hopefully we can make a difference. I remember when we had all these amazing bands in this country around 2008 and it was a great feeling going to festivals. There was something inherently British about that scene”.
– There’s that word again!
“We kinda lost it for a lil bit and that’s cool because everything is in cycles and I love UK rap and grime just as much as the next man. I’m here to be the alternative for kids growing up in the city, like you can rap and do grime but you can also pick up a guitar”.
A few weeks back, Bakar dropped a song called ‘Big Dreams‘, written about his little brother growing up on a typical London estate.
It’s an upbeat indie tune with not a hint of grime about it. A simple riff and punchy kick drum are the backing for Bakar’s inspiring lyrics: “You can never quit, you’ve got to go the whole way / you’ve got to put in work to be the one and only”. His vocal delivery doesn’t sound too dissimilar to that of Bloc Party‘s Kele Okereke.
The accompanying video for Big Dreams is nostalgic yet fresh, showing Bakar and friends playing their guitars out and about on a typical London estate in their vintage sportswear.
This week, Bakar released the follow-up: ‘Scott Free‘. A world away from straight-up indie found on Big Dreams, this track is a punky expression of his anger towards the police. Bakar’s distorted vocals echo the angst-ridden lyrics: “I hate that they have a badge, I hate that they shoot at us / I know they ain’t all bad but they stopped me cos I was black” – suggesting that this is another song written based on the life of the youth of modern London.
And just when you think he’s done switching between genres, you discover stripped-back, 55 second long acoustic track ‘Little Secret‘.
18 year-old Cosmo Pyke is another South London artist associated with this movement. He makes indie music with a psychedelic edge. He may dabble in rap but his guitar never leaves his side.
The Peckham native is the son of a guitarist in a feminist punk band. However, Cosmo revealed in an interview with the Guardian that he spent his childhood listening to reggae and Michael Jackson with his dad.
He relased EP ‘Just Cosmo‘ last month. Written based on the world around him, it’s songwriting is full of observations of real life in his London.
His single ‘Social Sites‘ garnered him some attention on the internet towards the end of 2016 and led to him joining cult indie favourites Jaws on a UK-wide tour. His supporting performances on this sold-out tour likely earnt him a few new fans in the indie community.
However, it is Social Sites’ follow-up which is the stand-out track of the EP to me. ‘Chronic Sunshine‘ is refreshingly care-free and even infuses a little bit of jazz.