Plenty of ink has been spilled, by FACT and others, about The New Wave Of Instrumental Grime Producers™, but what about the MCs?
Novelist and Stormzy, it’s fair to say, have broken clear: whether galavanting with Kanye West or giving their mum a starring role in a music video, everything they do from now on will be rabidly reported on – and fair play to them. No one’s carried themselves with as much gusto as Stormzy over the last year, and although Novelist will primarily be known for his way with earworm hooks and brilliant flow, it’s also remarkable that he’s got to this point working with producers as out there as Mumdance, Murlo and Inkke.
Tune into grime radio at the moment however – from Rinse and 1xtra, through NTS and Radar, to the likes of Mode and Flex – and things seem as vital as they have done in a long while (maybe since 2007’s wave of Griminal, Chipmunk, Ice Kid, Double S etc), with a new MC seemingly shutting down radio every week. None of them are quite Stormzy yet, but they’re making radio feel like one hell of an exciting place, and as they start to develop a recorded output as well as a Soundcloud page of set recordings, it’ll be exciting to see who ends up closest to the top.
Jammz regularly claims that he actually is radio, and he’s probably on the airwaves more than any other MC at the moment. He’s not picky either – one day you might catch him on Rinse with Spyro, another day it might be a small pirate like Mode FM – and he’s already got co-signs from both grime stalwarts (P Money and Spooky, who produced a track on his latest EP Hit Then Run) and the new breed (he’s collaborating with both Moleskin and Finn).
Mez hails from Nottingham, and sounds a little like a more skippy D Double E, if he came from the Midlands and grew up on bassline house rather than jungle. That’s a compliment. His ‘Sike!’ single is currently doing the most damage, but also check for Jon Phonics’ remix of ‘Ghostin’ and his spot on Jammz’ ‘Hit then Run’ remix. He’s also about to go on a mini-tour with Kano, Elijah and Skilliam.
Novelist and Stormzy may have been on stage with Kanye, but for some grime’s real 2014 success story was the return of K9. The West London MC’s Mad in the Cut mixtape, A&Red by producer Dark0, was a moving tale of both street and home life, and he’s currently working with some of the most interesting new producers from both the UK and US. We can’t wait to hear more – especially if it involves helping shine a light on fellow West Londoners like Frostar and Direman.
Grime has a rich history of really, well, rowdy white blokes. Some (Devlin, Plan B) end up signed to majors and starring in movies, while others (Discarda) become cult heroes. We can’t see Row-D doing an Ill Manors any time soon, but he’s got a stack of support from Charlie Sloth and has been putting in the radio hours – a well-timed mixtape in the next 12 months could be a breakthrough moment, especially as he’s as comfortable over hip-hop beats as he is 140.
The other guys from the Square
Novelist’s broken clear, so who’s next? There’s Faultsz, authoritative and comfortable going gruff over sets or kicking back with a slicker, Kano-esque flow. There’s Hilts/Murkilla, with a flow as cheeky as his grin, Deejillz and Elf Kid, who’ve been tearing up radio with DJs like Slackk and J-Kush, plus Syder and Streema – like Novelist, the latter produces too.
Repped by Slimzee and more, the Northampton-based MC was responsible for FACT TV’s most aggy freestyle yet, and that whole Lewisham McDeez thing started as a result of him going for Novelist. It’s not just war with Gibbs though – he can also pull out the Auto-Tune for faded wifey bars, and he’s already got two weighty Bandcamp releases to his name.
Ty’s only 19, but you wouldn’t know that from his deep-voiced flow, which sounds like it could have come from someone twice his age. He’s more notable for his radio appearances than tunes at this point, but he’s got support from all the right places – Logan, Spooky, Slimzee – and has shared sets with Novelist, Jammz and more.
North London trio Saint P, PK and Lyrical Strally are still young and raw, but they’re more than capable of holding their own against other MCs – as this recent GimmeGrime set shows – and if they can bring their back-and-forth radio wavelength to some rally tracks this year then they should hit the next level.
Bit of a punt here as there’s definitely MCs with more stripes than Madders, but listen to her shut down the first few minutes of this set and tell us she’s not cold. She’s only got a ‘Creeper’ freestyle to her name on Soundcloud, but it sounds like she’s already making the right links – we’d love to hear her on more original tracks this year.
North-East London’s Kwam has been around the block as a rapper and producer – he actually worked with Terminator and others back in the day – but he’s got a great flow that lopes on and off-beat at will, and although he gets a bit Capital P political at times, there’s an ambition and depth to his lyrics that makes him stand out. Check his 2014 mixtape People Power.