UK Grime front man, Skepta had a sit-down interview with Apple Music’s Beats 1, ahead of his planned double appearance at Coachella, which didn’t happen all. And, also ahead of the release date of his upcoming album Konnichiwa on May 6. The interview with interviewer Zane Lowe, showcased the emerging triumphs and challenges ahead for the emerging global trend of this hip-hop sub-genre.
During the interview, Skepta, whose real name is Joseph Adenuga, Jr made a bunch of poignant statements. Beginning with his response to Zane Lowe’s statement on how collaborative the environment is within Grime’s current crop of emerging artists, and how they can all thrive together and support each other. However, really significant was this statement by Skepta,
“For any new artist…, if you want to do music, there is a way off the streets. Because, people are just rapping now and getting themselves famous on YouTube, and they can’t go nowhere…. If we are gonna do music, why are we the only country – if someone in Nigeria or Africa makes Afrobeats they can go and buy mansions, big cars, everything. Chief Keef (Chicago rapper) does his own… cars, mansion, everything. In Britain, in London why do we make bangers for years and years and years, and they still renting. People are still having to go stand around on the road and get themselves into nonsense.”
“We should have all these things in place, that when you rap, you can get off the streets…. and thats the way it should be. if it happens everywhere else, it should be like that for us as well. And, that’s what we are working towards”
Like it’s big brother, hip-hop (specifically, its gangsta-rap cousin), Grime comes out of street life in London, as well as the struggles of black people in the UK. Along with that comes significant elements of gang life.
One of the biggest names in Grime, is a UK MC called Giggs and he’s the leader of a used-to-be-violent gang called SN1, which stands for the gruesome “spare no one.” SN1 has been linked to some ghastly violent crimes in London, and is a branch of the larger infamous UK gang Peckham Boys.
But with the help of Grime and some entrepreneurship ventures, as well as a few stints behind bars, Giggs and his crew seem to have turned their lives around, and are now focusing primarily on Grime. Also, the police, with some disturbing tactics are keeping a close watch on them.
Unfortunately, many of the police practices border on harassment and in many ways just seems to be spiteful and even vengeful. At times, they go so far as to shut down Giggs shows, before the day of, for no verifiable reason. In addition, the UK police made the extra-ordinary move of trying to prevent a major record label from signing him. Despite all these, it appears Giggs continues to try to stay off the streets and in the studio. Obviously, For the victims of SN1 and Peckham boys, it may seem warranted – but then “let him who has not sinned cast the first stone.”
This detailed expose from the UK Guardian Newspaper titled Giggs: prison, police harassment, cancelled tours – When Will It Stop is well worth the read.
With this documented practice of harassment of Grime artists from the police and agents of the law, one cannot help but make a connection to Skepta’s recent cancelled Coachella appearance and US tour. It’s not everyday an artist gets invited to Coachella.
Fans were not happy, and they expressed their dissatisfaction in the comments, and felt disenfranchised.
Like early 90’s hiphop, Grime will have to take on that challenge of achieving what Skepta describes in the Beats 1 interview. Kendrick Lamar may be winning Grammy Awards, Kanye and Kim West may be on the cover of Vogue, but it wasn’t always that way. Hip-hop in America was also shunned and type-cast away from the mainstream.
It wasn’t really until the Death-Row era with TuPac and Snoop Dogg, and Bad Boy Entertainment with the Notorious B.I.G and Puffy that hip-hop really began to emerge out of the streets. But, it took the death (proverbial sacrifice) of the two icons, 2Pac and Biggie, for the transition to begin in full effect, giving rise to Jay Z, Snoop, Puffy, Kanye, Kendrick, Asap Rocky, and others as household names in America.
Hopefully, Grime doesn’t need to take that same violent path. And, based on the collaborative atmosphere described by Skepta in the interview with Beats 1, it doesn’t look like it will.
In addition, the big bros in North America, including Kanye and Drake have taken on their sibling responsibilities of co-signing Grime. Kanye performed with a legion of Grime artists at the Brits Awards in 2015. And then come 2016, when the Brits shunned Grime artists once again, this time Grime artists were further emboldened to speak out, including Krept and Konan, Big Narstie, and Stormzy released a freestyle on the issue as well. Skepta talked about the 2016 Brits shun in the interview with Beats 1.
Finally, Drake has also jumped into the fray, appearing on stage, along with Skepta, at a Section boyz concert. Most notably, is that Drake has signed with the label run by Skepta’s brother JME, Boys Better Know.
Take a listen to Skepta’s insightful interview on Apple Music Beats 1:
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