2011 proved to be the resurrection of one of the rawest UK based genres to surface in this millennium. Grime originates somewhere between the late 90s – early 2000s Dark Garage days. It’s tinged with Jungle and UK Hardcore vibes and is characterized by an alternating 8-bar structure and vocals from street warlords that battle for mic supremacy.
The mid 2000s brought Grime to the US, with Vice pushing the Run The Road mixtapes. It was a time when Wiley and Roll Deep reigned supreme with JME, Skepta and Boy Better Know. Unfortunately, the genre was never properly promoted here and even the UK music industry discredited it, calling any generic hip hop “Grime.”
Most of the original Grime producers are still circulating and some still have Rinse.fm show such as Elijah and Skilliam. Their label, Butterz, has almost single-handedly kicked the scene in its ass. Score 5, Spyro, and Teddy also run weekly shows playing the newest in the genre. Plus you can’t forget Spooky on Deja Vu FM, and one of the originators, Logan Sama, who’s constantly setting the bar high on Kiss FM.
Finally, Grime has some star MCs such as P-Money (who alongside Blacks released the best mixtape of the year, P and Blacks) and D Double E, both of whom have proved themselves on many tracks, even dipping into Dubstep and DnB influenced productions, which made making this list all the harder.
Producers and labels have come back in a big way, and if there is one person that has been turning everything to gold, it would have to be Spooky: applying a traditional structure and sound to his productions, he has brought us back to a better time, when music made your spine tingle and maybe even want to punch a guy in the face. The one label that has really made an impact, with their eclectic and forward thinking roster of producers, is Butterz: from the melodic and aggressive sounds of Royal T, to the more dubbed out crossover productions of Swindle.
The task at hand was arduous, and all ten tracks deserve as much recognition as the other. There are also a handfull of tracks that I had to include as honorable mentions, such as Bok Bok‘s “Silo Pass“, Neon Beats‘ “Attack”, DJ Shiftee‘s remix of Ayarcana’s “Allright“, Deset’s “Virus” and the majority of Preditah’s Eightsome EP. So enjoy the list, and lets make 2012 the year of Grime worldwide… Pray for Bass!
First we have a release from Brooklyn’s first lady of bass, Star Eyes. This DJ turned editor (XLR8R) turned producer hits a home run with the title track of her grime/house dubbed three track EP, giving us those bouncy basslines, ravey stabs and voodoo interludes.
Star Eyes, along side Drop The Lime and a few others, is one of the reasons Grime and Dubstep exist in NYC, and we all owe her a great deal of gratitude. If you are not convinced, or for some reason you’ve not been living in the same rave cave, then you are in for a treat.
Throughout the year, J-Sweet has turned out copious amounts of really heavy tracks, starting with his collaboration with the legendary Alias on their MarxAlias EP, and the Spartan remixes to “Street Hawk/Tell Them” and “Clash.”
J-Sweet’s tracks sound like rolling thunder, and as this track states, you can’t stop them! Honorable mention also goes to his track “Kerb” but even more so to (Slit Jockey head) Starkey’s remix.
Dexplicit’s Rise of the Centaur would have been in my top 5 EPs of 2011. His track “Futurian” is possibly the more demure of the 6, and yet it stands out here in it’s other incarnation as “Gas Leak” thanks to Big Narstie’s heavy flow that tends to peak at the end of each verse.
“The Centaur” and “Pirate Cave” are definitely heavier tracks that have been circulating the airwaves as well for quite sometime, yet this one is probably the one with the most crossover potential because of its half-time tempo and of course Narstie’s hyper lyricism. Dexplicit has been turning out tunes for quite sometime. After a stint in bassline and hip hop, he is back to his Grime roots, providing some of the heavist instrumentals of the year and standing up to the weight of his classic battle riddim, “Hench.”
I am making an exception for this track as it is actually a forthcoming January release for Hardrive Records, but the fact that it has been spun so much on the radio over the past six months has to speak for the magnitude of the track. This track has all the qualities that you would look for in a great track: old school breaks, soothing melodies, glitchy stabs, and a heavy rolling bassline.
Released earlier this year, the Anger Management EP (Hardrive) is a further example of why you should be watching out for this producer in 2012; keep watch for a second january release on Score Five’s Plain Face label.
This combination made my eyes bleed: Terror Danjah, one of the rulers of the dark and experimental Grime world since the early 2000s, gets remixed by Butterz’s prodigal son Royal-T. The outcome is a lethal track, too hard to even be on the original release, yet worthy of a Butterz monthly mailout. It blends Ruby Lee Ryder’s vocals into a tornado of kicks and melodic breathers that will leave any dancefloor in a frenzy.
Terror Danjah, a household name in Grime after having released for years on the iconic Hyper Dub and Planet Mu imprints, runs the futuristic label Hardrive Records which avails itself of artists such as D.O.K., the man responsible for “Missing Step.” Royal-T has had a big run this year providing the instrumental for P Money and Blacks’ “Boo You” and “Orangeade.”
Hit the Jump for the Top 5!
This track should just be called “All Seasons,” as it really has been rolling round the airwaves for the whole year and it does not skip a beat whatsoever. Part of the self-released Always Ready EP, it features a haunting synth line with a classic structure that alternates a 4×4 tempo to half time.
Which is perfect for the two top dogs to put their lyrical stamp on it, creating a great call and response. This EP follows his debut Electric, and the full length Are You Ready?, both must haves for your Grime collection out on No Hats, No Hoods.
One of this year’s break out producers has to be canine aficionado Faze Miyake. His barking call out reminds me of Earl Simmon’s better days (One Love Boomer R.I.P.) but with an even angrier grin. Classic low key horns accompany this stomping anthem for all occasions.
No one was safe from “Take Off” as it populated everyone’s mixes and radio shows for the better portion of the year, seeing vocals from the allmighty Boy Better Know crew, and even P Money giving his very own “Rat Tat Tat” tag to it. The eponymous EP comes with the deep, dark, and funky “Blackberry” instrumental (also originally performed over by P Money), a stomach churner entitled “Screwdriver V.I.P.,” and an old school shuffler that will make you “Jump!”
D Double E is certainly no stranger to the spotlight. He is one of the lyrical forefathers of the Grime scene, and half of the iconic duo Newham Generals. He is remembered for “Street Fighter Riddim,” a tongue in cheek beat loaded with the video game samples. He then gave us “Bad To The Bone” (over SX’s “Woo Riddim”) and “Hard,” courtesy of a Breakage production, where he once again illustrated why he’s the baddest.
With “Bluku Bluku,” he creats a salute which can be used in many aspects of life but mostly to go to war on the mic. As if one don wasn’t enough, Dizzie Rascal blesses the track with a golden verse. The Bluku Bluku EP is a seven piece of fury that includes his latest single “Be Like Me” which was recently remixed by the allmighty Snoop Dogg.
Once this track surfaced it was time for all others to give up: in a classic fashion it opens up calm yet menacing and then drops into a bouncy riddim that will make you flex for days! The track has been played by a variety of DJs such as Redlight, Plastician, Sinden and many more. Darq E Freaker has been on everyone’s rap radar here in the states so who knows what 2012 holds for this young producer.
An honorable mention goes to his recent remix for Rival’s “Lock Off the Rave” giving us those big stabs and kicks that only he can provide; and to the follow up to “Cherryade,” “Blueberry” which will soon see the light of day.
Spartan is a classic track that will go down in history as the track that brought Grime back to life this past year. Starting with an epic intro, it drops Spartan’s war cry into a frenzy of dirty synth stabs that will make you want to punch people. The track received a great vocal from Kozzie and a remix version featuring Marger, Merky ACE, Rival, Ego and Scrufizzer which will be making a lot of noise in the year to come.
Between official and unofficial remixes, this track had 15 producers take a stab at it, and all of them are amazing, proving that you cannot ruin a track as gigantic as “Spartan.” Standout remixes come from old school dons J Sweet, Alias, Terror Danjah and many more. Last but not least, Spooky receives the highest honors because of his whole body of work, which includes a handfull of heavy EPs and his world renowned Bag of Myths edits, spanning genres that will drive any sane person crazy.- Shark