How Grime Shaped My Adolescence

‘I was 13, with a group of friends, and it was my first time hearing anything so Black and British – and, also, so working class’

Dizzee Rascal, Boy in da Corner, 2003. Courtesy: XL Recordings 

Dizzee Rascal, Boy in da Corner, 2003. Courtesy: XL Recordings 

No music shaped my adolescence more than grime. It was a pillar in my coming-of-age story. Like many people outside of London who didn’t have access to pirate radio stations such as Rinse FM – the pioneers responsible for breathing life into the genre – my first encounter with grime was listening to Dizzee Rascal’s Boy in da Corner (2003). I was 13, with a group of friends, and it was my first time hearing anything so Black and British – and, also, so working class. To this day, it is perhaps the only British thing I am truly patriotic about. The beats are rapid: 140 bpm to be exact. The lyrics relay ‘inner city’ life and rely heavily on poetic devices such as repetition and simile. Grime occupies an interesting space. It isn’t as introspective as hip-hop but it’s not as light-hearted as its UK predecessor, garage. Instead, it explores the grittiness of the Black experience with a sense of humour. Artists such as Kano, Wiley, NoLay and groups including Boy Better Know, Roll Deep and More Fire Crew helped to bring mainstream attention to the style of music that is only now receiving its due accolade. Grime emboldened my generation because it turned our otherwise invisible stories into something the world couldn’t help but nod along to. 

Kadish Morris is editorial assistant and staff writer of frieze, based in London, UK.  

Issue 200

First published in Issue 200

January - February 2019

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