London-based producer and DJ Slackk, aka Paul Lynch, is the grime expert who formerly operated the invaluable—although now unattended—cache of pirate radio rips grimetapes.com. As a longtime lover of the British genre, he weighs the current batch of producers carrying the alien and futuristic music forward, and is pleased with their results. Listen to his mix accompanying this piece as today’s Mix of the Day.
In case you haven’t noticed, there is the beginnings of a grime renaissance afoot in Britain. Though in recent years there’s been perhaps a stronger focus on house and that, the newer producers coming through are drawing on core elements of grime and taking them in some quite divergent directions.
From it’s beginnings at the start of the millennium throughout London, grime has always been quite a distinctive and strange sound—young kids taking ideas from the embers of garage, dancehall and Southern hip-hop (or crunk if you want to bring that word back), and filtering them back through the bass-heavy pirate sound that’s always dominated the capital. The end results were basically like nothing that had came before it—endlessly sparse and strange. Though it’s gone through various ebbs and flows, the music has shown a surprising longevity and a willingness to take on all kinds of influences and still remain resolutely unique.
I would argue that the most recent batch of producers coming through are probably the strangest there’s been in a while, and I mean that in a good way—this is probably the most vibrant and innovative stuff coming through at the moment, from a myriad of producers. I’ve been playing a lot of this stuff for a while now and I’m going to tell you about a few of them. I’m not saying this is an exhaustive list by any stretch, and there are people like Logos, Bloom or Visionist who I haven’t included because you should know about them already, really. These are just some people making really interesting music and they’re the tip of the iceberg.
I know I said earlier that this was a British renaissance, and for the most part it is, but it is somewhat bigger than that. The likes of Rabit (see below) or Sublo are making this music from America, there’s an incredible Australian contigent in the form of producers like Arctic, Strict Face and Midnight Mike. To be honest, this list could easily be three or four times as long, but if you follow the soundclouds for each person I’m sure you can find all sorts of producers for yourself.
Samename is one of my favorite producers. There can be a tendency in some grime tunes to just bang together an intro and a couple of eight bar sections and let it loop. I love those tunes if they’re done well (or even badly, sometimes) but it’s not something you can really see Samename doing. Just listen to tracks like “Okishima Island” or “Mishima Cure” (out on Pelican Fly)—there are melodies in some of his stuff that people would kill for and he’ll flip them after 30 seconds and then it’s onto another change-up, another shift. Very few people are coming out with stuff like this right now, if anyone. Proper mad music.
At his best, MssingNo sounds like Ruff Sqwad and Zaytoven smoking great weed in space and just writing loads of bangers in a row. There’s a kind of lineage in grime where you have these tunes like “Ghetto Kyote” or “Functions On the Low”—incredibly melodic beats full of minors with a real sense of menace or impending doom. Some of MssingNo’s beats like “124th” have that. He’s got some great beats, really, and I don’t think many people can do that pitched-up, dubbed-out vocal shit that he’s got going anywhere near as well, either.
I wouldn’t say Kid D is necessarily as “new” as most of the people on the list but he’s someone I think has never really received anywhere near the attention he should have done. To me, it makes sense that he follows MssingNo here because they’ve got a lot of things in common—the way they’ll have those little vocal tics and hooks throughout and they both have really strong melodies, too. Kid D’s approach is different, though—there’s a brightness and light and an almost pop sensibility to the way he’ll go about things. Far too underrated really. If you can find them, he’s put out a couple of great vinyls, too.
Chemist makes some moody shit, man. He’s got moments of lightness but I’d say, for the most part, his stuff just comes across like a dead eye stare and a moment or two of silence to contemplate it. Most of his music is quite sparse and I like that—a lot of his beats are really just a few drum hits and a square wave or two. It says a lot for what he’s doing that his stuff can stand up so well, even when there’s so little of it there.
Earlier this year Dark0 put out a mixtape (you can get it here). Most of the producers I’ve talked about here are putting out incredible instrumental stuff and really the focus isn’t on an MC at all. Big chunks of this tape, though, are Dark0 instrumentals with grime acapellas over them. Normally I hate it when people do that, will never listen to a remix if I can help it, but this is a great tape, man. He even manages to make me like a Ghetts/Ghetto vocal, and there isn’t an MC I like less. So that’s definitely an achievement.
JT The Goon
JT is a bit of an unsung hero to me, really. There’s a grand tradition of great producers being associated with Slew Dem—think Spooky, Waifer, Top Dolla. JT is one of them, but in my mind he’s probably the best of the lot. The EP I’ve posted is coming out on Oil Gang in a couple of months, and just listen to it, man. Fucking epic. “Grime Orchestra” is probably the best thing anyone’s given away on a free download this year—I’ve seen grown men nearly cry to that melody. Joe Moynihan said recently it was like the last level of every game ever, or something like that. JT’s workrate is a bit scary at times and to him that’s just some throwaway tune. Ridiculous.
Murlo’s another one like JT, who seems to just have infinite amounts of incredible melodies and tunes. They both send me stuff a lot, and to be honest it makes me feel like I’ve got to step my game up sometimes—such a strong output. Murlo’s got an EP coming out on Glacial Sound soon and I hope it gets the attention it deserves because it’s almost like the grandchild of those early Wiley tunes like “Snowflake”. Melodies you end up humming at work, mate. Murlo’s also got a really strong batch of dancehall riddims and soca too. All kinds really.
There are a few different sides to what Breen can do. He’s got quite a few really sparse minimal things, just blasts of pulse bass and square waves, and I’d count “Hooded Up” in that. Or there’s the more dubbed out tunes like “Channels”, which to me sounds like a spaceship taking off but you’re really sad to see it go and somewhere in the background someone’s listening to Lex Luger instrumentals but all you can hear is the sub and the rolling hats. If you can find it, you can get “Hooded Up” on Kahn & Neek’s Bandulu label. There’s definitely a bit of grime vinyl renaissance in Bristol these days with things like Boofy & Lemzly Dale’s “Catch A Body” too. There are loads of great producers in Bristol I could talk about here alongside everyone else, but there’s only so many people I can talk about in one go.
Speaking of Bristol, OH91 is making some really moody stuff, as well. You should really know Kahn & Neek’s “Percy” by now, but OH91 takes the ideas behind that here and takes it to another level, really—so much energy in this tune when it gets dropped in a club, man. He’s got an EP coming on Coyote Records called “Stealth” that’s sounding really good, as well. Glad it’s coming on a 12″, it deserves it.
Since the beginning of the year, Inkke has sent me 42 tracks and edits and it’s not even September as I write this. He’s another one with a terrifying workrate to be honest, although I wouldn’t compare his stuff to Murlo or JT really. There’s a definite strangeness to some of these Inkke tunes, a general unease, but he’s also done an edit of Nelly & Kelly Rowland’s “Dilemma”, so I think it’s fair to say he’s quite divergent in his output. If you told me before I heard it that I’d be playing Nelly remixes in the club I’d have called you an idiot, but there you go.
(NB- For some reason there’s a bit of a resurgence in grime rnb refixes lately, check out Milktray’s “Hotel”, for example.)
I hate to keep on banging on about workrate but Rabit’s another one of those producers who can just write endless tunes. If you’re familiar with Logos’ takes on the skeletal, early 8bar sound, I guess that’s the best thing I can really compare Rabit’s sound to—stuff like “Burnerz” is really just a collection of deeply strange noises hanging together by a thread, but it’s fucking brilliant. He’s also got a beat that isn’t on the internet yet called “Sun Showers” that’s almost like the soundtrack Solaris never had. Proper deep stasis music.
Trends tunes will just fuck you up, end of. Despite an ability to write lighter, softer stuff (his “Coolie Joyride” remix, for example), most of his stuff is just the hardest bass sound you’ve ever heard and relentless uptempo drums, explosions, lasers. There are very few producers whose beats will draw the kind of reaction in the club that Trends’ do.
Sirpixalot is from Brixton and he’s in a hardcore band, too. I know some people in bands who say that grime is like punk in a lot of ways, and I’ve never agreed with that but I don’t like guitars so why should I. I can see where the crossover is in some of Sirpixalot’s music because there’s a real stripped-back menace to his tunes like “Brazil”. Equally though, there are some very pretty chord progressions in his stuff like “Raiden Riddim” (free here) that make me think of when Purple was still a thing and Joker was still good. That was a good summer.
Really I wanted to post loads of Nammy Wams tunes like “Laze”, which is such an effortless tune that MCs would sound incredible over if they had any taste when it comes to picking beats, but they don’t. As it stands, he’s got a few good things on his Soundcloud in one long clip here so you should listen to that. Definitely one to pay attention to, even if you can’t hear most of his much anywhere but a select few DJ sets yet.
Saga has an EP coming soon on Visionist’s Lost Codes label and it is fucking mad. It’s not on the internet yet though, so in the meantime download this one and remember to keep an eye out for the EP. It’s great.
Just in case you thought it was all just instrumentals and there’s no undercurrent of MCs anymore, Novelist (and his crew, The Square) are a prime example of the newer, younger batch of MCs coming through. For years, the best MCs have been coming from South London (Giggs, Fekky) and this lot are great too. Novelist produces, too, and he’s really good.~