Thursday, 23 September 2004

Terror Danjah knows his journalists

, originally uploaded by chantelle.

Wednesday, 22 September 2004

The Rise of Grime

From underground to overground, it’s the flag we’re all going to be waving…

Since Dizzee Rascal clinched the Mercury Music Prize last year for ‘Boy In Da Corner’, and Wiley’s ‘Wot Do U Call It?’ landed, there’s been no escaping the great new genre debate.

Eski, 8 Bar, Sublow, Grime? While the latter seems to be the preferred choice (despite most ‘grime’ artists detesting the term), who wants to sit around discussing names when the music is as good as it is?

Grime is injecting the life back into what was becoming a dull UK music scene, awash with sub-standard R&B and hip hop. It’s the voice of inner city British youth that is been embraced by teens and adults alike. REAL soul food if you will.

The more obvious roots of grime can be traced way back to the days when Pay As U Go turned UK garage as we knew it on it’s head, DJ Slimzee even playing slowed down jungle so his boys could spit lyrics over it. Anthems such as the Wiley produced Know We set new trends. Even the likes of So Solids ‘Woah’, belong with grime’s seminal records. By 2002, a very definite new sound had begun filtering through. Now there are instrumentals, culmination’s of jittery, unpredictable, recondite beats and demoniac bass, some-what unexplainable backing tracks, the preferred choice of DJ’s, ravers and more noticeably, a new skool of MC’s.

Rather than imitate American flows and speech, these Cockney linguists (the majority of the top MC’s hailing from east London) are making a stand, accents exaggerating and switching between their favoured patois and street slang. They use their music as a weapon to gain a voice, a reflection of their world which we tend to ignore but that they don’t want to disregard anymore. It’s a revolt against meaningless, wasteful pop music. And It’s British through and through.

Championed by newer crews like N.A.S.T.Y and Roll Deep on radio stations such as Rinse and Déjà Vu, the scene has been bubbling and evolving. The soundtrack to London street life is now emanating throughout the nations cities, the rhythm of suburbia an indispensable fuel.

And It seems that with XL Recordings exporting Dizzee and Wiley to Top of The Pops territory, the major label pound signs have begun flashing. Kano, Roll Deep, Durrty Goodz (formerly known as Doogz) and Lady Sovereign are about to drop albums, and all, in some shape or form have ridden the grime wave. While the likes of Kano have worked their way up via radio and raves such as Sidewinder and Eskimo Dance, gaining fan bases and making street anthems, others, like Sovereign (and Shystie) ooze the influences but offer a more alternative take on the sound. Even rapper Klashnekoff is looking to get in the studio with heavy weight grime producers Terror Danjah and Jammer, a sight a lot of people never thought they’d see given the UK hip hop fraternities disdain for anything garage. But that’s one of grime’s most attractive qualities – an autonomous, professedly rule-free musical ideology.

So while we don’t know whether grime will be called grime by this time next year (G Hop anybody?)), there is one thing we can be pretty sure about – it’s got a colossal future and we can all be a part of it.

Words: Chantelle Fiddy

A version of this article appears in UMS Magazine

Kano - ready and able

On May 21st 2004, Cain Robinson turned 19 and on the same day became one of Eastham’s most elidgible bachelors, signing to 679 Recordings, home to The Streets, The Futureheads et al.

Kano. An obvious choice for any label with nouse. He outshines most of his fellow grime MC’s in a quick minute. His lyrical content and flow are about as unpredictable as Pete Doherty turning up to a Libertines gig. Girls love him, teenage boys want to be him, and it’s looking likely that Kano will take England further afield sooner than anyone within the FA.

But as yet there’s been little hype. You could argue that it’s a bit early (Kano’s album isn’t expected to drop until early next year), but it would also be fair to say that since Dizzee Rascal became the first out of the grime stable, winning a Mercury and becoming the Boy In Da Media, other MC’s trying to make the break overground are having a ready battle.

“Although I am an individual, I think because perhaps I was a big part of a big crew, and still, am that it’s meant I haven’t had that mad hype. Dizzee was just Dizzee Rascal.” Kano elaborates, perched on a wall outside the quiet Eastham home he shares with his mum and 21 year old brother. “It might just be down to who we are as people, our style of music, it’s like we’re so different but we’re so the same. At sixteen, like Dizzee did with I Luv U, I produced and wrote the most important track of my career so far, Boys Love Girls… “

It was a track that put Kano on the map. Drafted into one of grime’s biggest crews, N.A.S.T.Y (Natural Artistic Sounds Touching You) around the same time in 2001, he went onto become a headline act at raves across the country and drove hundreds of listeners to jam Déjà Vu Fm’s phonline on his weekend appearances. In the last two years he’s featured on just a few white label releases including the N.A.S.T.Y smashTake You Out, and the recent Demon collaboration Arms House, while also making more recent appearances on Wiley’s album, and remixes of Shystie’s One Wish and The Streets Fit But You Know It.

With his debut album well underway, producers making appearances include newcomers Mikey J and DaVinche with MC’s D Double E, Ghetto and Demon set to feature. We’re also promised a few less likely suspects such as Fraser, that white guitarist the Americans told Craig David to get rid of (which he didn’t).

"It’s very experiemental. None of us just do Grime, I would never say I’m a grime artist, I say ‘I’ve risen through the garage scene’. The worst thing Wiley’s ever done is made that tune Wot Do U Call It because I swear that’s the worst question I get asked.”

But Wiley is one person who is aiding in heating up tongues while we await new Kano material. If you thought 8 Mile was the best for beef then watch Kano effectively eat Wiley on the Lord Of The Mic’s Battle Arena DVD

“I was only 17 when I did that you know, I was spitting some real bars innit and I know my flows tight” Kano laughs. “I don’t think anyone won, it was even. He was trying to win the clash, but I was trying to show him look how I spit and look how you spit...I like Wiley, but you get what I’m saying, lyrically I think people will say I won.”

It’s make your mind up time.

Lord Of The Mics, Battle Arena Volume 1 DVD& CD is available from all good independent record outlets now.

Words: Chantelle Fiddy

A version of this article appears in I-D Magazine

Tuesday, 21 September 2004

D Double E - Top Of The Class

English language scholars looking for modern day inspiration need look no further than MC D Double E, the self professed Newham General and modern day reviver of word play.

Despite not cutting the grades when at school, D Double E and his lyric books make for the modern day Sartre ‘I loathe my childhood and all that remains of it.’ His 16 bars, which can at first glance or listen, imply irreverence and distastefulness, details a prevalent street philosophy, one where false childhood conceptions on life and illusion-ridden lifestyles are played out.

“I don’t eat bangers and mash/but I roll in the banger with mash/and if you get moved I’ll be banging the mash/quicker than a flash/bang be gone in a flash”

But to date, in many ways, DEE has been a victim of his own success. On his home turf of Forest Gate, East London he’s a hero with cult status. Walking down the road kids point him out, shouting, “ooh, ooh, it’s me, me” like he needs a reminder of his catch-phrase lyric. It’s these supposed gimmick lyrics that bring raves to a standstill, fans nearing hyperventilation, that have overshadowed his underlying talents and led to many people viewing him as little more than a novelty act.

“I just did it one day, made my voice echo on the mic and it stuck. I’ll walk into a dance in Manchester, Birmingham wherever and I all can hear is ‘ooh, ooh.’ It’s a big feeling trust me. But it’s very serious, you have to listen, I mean, I was ahead of my time, I’m doing lyrics still now that I wrote at 15.”

For DEE, it seems people are finally opening their ears. Having battled his way for the last ten years, from jungle through to (what he calls) ‘gayrage’ and now grime, it’s since parting with N.A.S.T.Y. Crew last year, alongside his co-d’s Footsie and Monkey. that his authority within the scene has become uncontestable.

“The way of getting light now (as an MC) is clashing. It’s like a cheat,” murmurs D Double E, shaking his head. “Thirty MC’s on a set, its going to be good right, but what can you do on your own? I know what I can do, I was on radio when these (yoots) were all locked in their yards on curfew.”

As his verbals and stature have grown in appeal, so it seems have his strides into mainstream territory. The only MC set to feature on Dizzee Rascal’s imminent second album, Showtime, recognition away from the urban territories is coming.

“We just did a PA at Homelands and boy, I felt like I was no one. I didn’t get that vibe like when I do a rave and everyone’s watching me. Those crowds are different, but they listen hard and the deep eruptions I heard when the music stopped must mean they heard it properly, the reality, right?”

Let buzz be the judge.

Chantelle Fiddy

A version of this article appears in the current issue of I-D Magazine

Roll Deep - Back in time

“Who’s Asher D? I don’t know him, but he’s calling my name so thank you and hi! I don’t want that kind of attention…” , “Yeh we have our own agenda” Wiley the unequivocal leader of new collective, Roll Deep, concludes for Dizzee Rascal.

Such a threat is seventeen year old underground MC/producer Dizzee Rascal, that So Solid Crews leading MC, Asher D’s priority on leaving prison was to challenge him to lyrical war.

But the ten-strong, all male, East London, Roll Deep Crew, look set to kick So Solid from the top of their Winstanley tower block to a messy death below.

They’ve appeared on the More Fire Crew album, remixed for Ashanti, supported Jay-Z on his recent UK tour dates and after a major record label battle have been signed to XL (also home to Basement Jaxx).

Although no newcomers to the game, the crew have only been working together full time for a year. Whilst the majority of the MCs and DJs were climbing the rungs of the solo ladder, Wiley and Flo Dan were members of the Pay As U Go Cartel whose commercial debut, Champagne Dance charted at number 12 last year.

Today though, Roll Deep are more intent on practising their J-Lo diva techniques. Concerns are raised about taking pictures outside, as they’re ‘not in their area.’ They’re wary of passers by, and don’t want to stand on the wet grass for fear it will wreck their customised Nikes. But it soon becomes obvious that Wiley calls the shots. With his approval, the boys climb the mound, Wiley, telling the photographer to hurry up as their cold.

It’s how Roll Deep roll - their way or no way. They won’t use a distribution company as they lose money, they won’t water their lyrics down for Top Of The Pops, and they certainly won’t be told how to stand.

Prima donnas maybe, but Wiley and Dizzee are fast becoming the male equivalents of Ms Dynamite. Unlike the rest of the currently apathetic and inexperienced crew, they’re spokesmen of their generation, unafraid to vent political views and youth angst on and off the mic.

With tracks such as Eskimo, Ho, I Love You and Ice Rink they’ve redefined UK garage as we knew it, with their unique blend of hip hop lyricism, and minimalist off-key beats laid down at a garage tempo.

“As an MC I made tunes with that in mind. I just flooded the market so you’d all know.” Says Wiley who was at one point, releasing material on a near-weekly basis.

And for a group of school boy-looking seasoned Skunk smokers, their music, if not a lot else, is on course to blow the UK, America and the Houses of Parliament away in the next twelve months.

Words: Chantelle Fiddy

Danny Weed – Named so due to chronic levels of weed consumption, his name is slightly out of touch given he’s kicked the habit and is swimming twice a week in a bid to get healthy. Brother of vocalist Dom P, Weed’s track Creeper is out now.

Bionics – Likens himself to Bugs Bunny (why? Who knows). Reckons he’s best described as articulate and for the record he’s the tallest member, towering in at a grand 6 ft 5.

Karnage – Reportedly spends more time asleep than on the decks or anywhere else for that matter. He loves Nike and would love Memphis Bleek to play him in a Roll Deep movie.

Wiley – Shot to production credibility with his track Nicole’s Groove and made the anthemic Pay As U Go track Know We which set the trend for the likes of So Solid. He loves banana fritters and is selling his Renault for £1500 to upgrade to an Alfa Romeo.

Breeze – Loves Jay-Z, thinks Nas is too serious but rates the Gods Son album. The windy one also recommends investing in some Akademics clothing and reading The Source.

Flow Dan – Having left Pay As U Go two months ago (‘I was the only good thing in it at the time’), the quiet, moody looking man of the bunch likes Steven Segal. His colleagues pronounce him a woman eater (‘he would take anyone’s girl’ says Jamakabi).

Bubbles – The smiley former office worker turned MC doesn’t smoke the reefer, loves designer labels but wants to get a big face and of course lots of money. Oh and he loves performing on stage.

Biggie Pitbull – Wiley’s cousin, Scratchy, was earning a living through ‘street shit’ but is now on the housing list in Amsterdam where he hopes to open a café selling his favourite skunk, Sweet Tooth. He also thinks he’s a pikey.

Jamakabi – The joker and big voiced entertainer, Jamakabi smokes high-grade all the way baby. He doesn’t rate Halle Berry and is yet to see his ideal woman, but is happy and likes to wear his hood up.

Dizzee Rascal – Denies rumours he’s related to More Fire Crew’s Ozzie B, likes Spiderman and the tune Ice Rink. This 17 year old thinks autographs are weird but wants to confront his fears, better himself and would consider a minor part in a Roll Deep meets Snoop Dogg porno.

A version of this article appeared in Muzik Magazine, 2003

Dizzee Rascal - A blast from the past

The summer heatwave is definitely on.

In the backyard of London’s Cargo bar and nightclub, it’s somewhat picturesque. We sit at an eloquently crafted wooden table, olives, mezzanine and chilled drinks the order of the day, the green leafed trees dancing oh-so slightly in the rare but warm Mediterranean-like breeze. Laughter fills the air as friends share a joke, a pleasant looking young man opposite us turns, his dancing, inviting eyes meeting ours as he reveals his recently stitched stab wounds to the chest and back…

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Dizzee Rascal.

On Monday 7th July 2003, Dylan Mills aka Dizzee Rascal, was the victim of a supposedly unprovoked attack in the holiday resort of Ayia Napa. Pulled from his bike, he was stabbed a number of times, wounds also inflicted on his legs alongside what he describes as ‘a little poke in the bottom.’ After emergency surgery and a few days recuperation in a Cyprus hospital, Mills was discharged.

Many people won’t have forgotten the initial hype. Within hours of the incident taking place the media were in a frenzy looking for the big scoop. Rumours flew across the internet, So Solid’s name thrown into the equation. Megaman soon assisted police in their enquiries and was subsequently eliminated. They say no smoke without fire but who knows?

With no celebrity suspect named, talk of retaliations between east and south London back in the UK became the new headline.

“…Even if I had beef with them it wouldn’t be an east thing…” an exasperated Dizzee rants “I ain’t got beef with them, none of that bullshit. I hear a lot of that but If you have a problem with someone from a particular area it doesn’t make it an area thing. I’m from London, I represent London and hopefully next I will represent England.”

The attack is supposed to be a pretty much closed subject area as far as today’s interview goes. Partly due to legalities, but also Dizzee’s own penchant to keep it ‘road’, to keep ‘the streets on the streets.’

Chewing the remaining flesh from his satay, discarding the stick with care while deciding what he fancies next, Dizzee looks up. “You know I’m not in Roll Deep anymore?” This is the same infamous ‘gat chatting’ crew from Bow E3 that Dizzee cites on his album, the most in demand crew in London that he was drafted into as a teen by XL Recordings label mate, Wiley. The news will no doubt devastate the original fanbase who have religiously collected tapepacks and pirate radio recordings.

“I left in Napa. They’re all blessed and that but I’m just Dizzee Rascal…It’s not a bad thing, I’m just not with them, as you get deeper in your thing some people go separate ways innit? I’ve been through a lot, I mean I keep saying ‘I’m from road, I’ve lived a violent life, I’ve been through shit,’ but this is more serious, it’s public…But I’m still here…”

Dizzee continues but with caution.

“I never thought I’d die (when I was stabbed), basically ‘I’ve gotta live it.’ It wasn’t an ambulance job where I was laying on the floor in a pool of blood like people are saying, someone took me to hospital on a moped! There was a chance I could have or should have died, the doctors told me that, I didn’t realise until then…”

Regardless of background and social status, an incident of this degree is going to have lasting effects, Dizzee playing no exception to the rule; having previously interviewed him on three occasions, this is one boy who’s fast having to grow into a man.

“I am appreciating life more, don’t get me wrong I was laying in that hospital coughing blood all night. That’s real” he laughs “You understand?”

“I don’t care if the media do or don’t leave it alone, cause I’ve said what I’m gonna say about it. My moral is road is road, music is music. I ain’t ever gonna speak.”

Some people may view this somewhat blasé take on crime as immoral. But this is another reflection of real life in the ‘ghettos’ and working class extremes of the UK, a reflection of the divisions that lie between communities and the law. It’s also this whole attitude that is part of what’s winning Dizzee the critical acclaim he can now boast.

Dizzee’s music career began back at school in Langdon Park, his music teacher Mr Smith, who’s also taught members of the Pay As U Go Cartel, spotting the evident talent.

“He did things differently, stylishly and with a real feeling…” Smith told Blues and Soul. “He had a wow factor and made such logical, musical sense. I loved it, adored it. He’d create tracks at school then take it to the studio and add vocals. Not everyone I play his stuff to likes it, but musically they can appreciate it. He’s pushed back barriers. I’d love to collaborate with him one day” Smith laughs.

At only 16 years old Dizzee produced and penned ‘I Luv U’, now a definitive street anthem dealing with teenage pregnancy which despite the tracks age only charted at no. 29 this year. The album that followed had critics snapping their pencils in excitement and confusion with a sudden urgency to understand these highly original street sounds they’ve been ignorant to for so long.

Likewise radio stations are gradually waking up but treading as warily as ever when it comes to playlisting the music that is the mouthpiece and rocking the stereos, raves and pirate radios of a new generation fed up with highly manufactured pop fodder.

Where the music is concerned Dizzee has an on-point conscious hip hop-influenced lyricism, laced with poignant tales of life in the London ghetto, and the struggles of being Dizzee Rascal. Minimal underground beats form in a style without a name, more down-tempo than Dizzee’s underground releases like Go and Ho, they are from the womb of a new genre of music, a progression of the UK garage of yesteryear, subconsciously drawing heavily from the Detroit and Miami bass scenes, as well as the more typically ‘urban’ genres.

“This whole underground thing isn’t garage, it’s coming from garage. Turn on the radio and you’ll know what time it is.” Dizzee explains. “There’s good emcees out there like Wiley, Doogz, Gift, Riko, It’ll be heavy when the next lot come through, I can’t wait. I say some positive things but I don’t think I’m a role model, I like to think I’m an inspiration to keep doing what you’re doing. I like the tempos of jungle and garage but I’ve also always wanted to do rap…It’s not just about breaking America, it’s about the world. We’ve sat back for too long like we’ve got nothing to say.”

Slightly surprising then that of all the people he could work with at the moment he’d love to hook up with Mario.

“I don’t know whether I’ll win the Mercury, there’s some big names nominated but I’d bet £150 on me.” He says through more laughter.

“It’s nice all this but I’m trying to be real to myself as well as make people relate. I’m spending my money on things that are going to last. Sometimes you have to go through extreme things to learn lessons, it takes a lot of little things to build up… Sometimes I feel depressed to tell you the truth, fuck all this, fuck everyone but other times I go to bed smiling.”

While Dizzee is fighting his own smiles and tears, at the time of going to press, police in Cyprus, working in close contact with The Met Police in London, still have out arrest warrants for two unnamed British men who fled the country soon after the incident, and who could, if found guilty, be charged with attempted murder.

Whether or not retribution is sought, he wins the Mercury, captures the hearts of America or his future releases catch a glimpse of the top ten doesn’t seem to be the be all and end all. Dizzee and his tales are like a sledge hammer knocking the establishment for six, the loudest of wake up calls to a government and society quick to ignore problems away from their own doorstep.

Anthony Blair fix up, look sharp, the ghetto’s need a hug.

Words: Chantelle Fiddy

A version of this article appeared in Blues and Soul Magazine, 2003.