Back in April, we argued that pirate radio was as good as it’s been in years for upcoming MCs.
There’s been untold amounts of hype around grime’s recent wave of producers over the last couple of years – in FACT and plenty of other publications – and some have argued that this has come at a cost to the producer-MC dynamic that has been at the heart of grime since the genre’s birth.
It seems, however, that the truth was more realistic: it’s simply taken a little while for grime’s vocal and instrumental side to coalesce again. Even in grime’s time away from the spotlight there was promising interaction between experimental producers and MCs (Mr Mitch has produced for Skepta, Royal-T and TRC for P Money, etc), but it now feels like both sides are firing on all cylinders. In terms of productions, you’ve had tracks pop up showcasing combinations like Inkke and Novelist and Finn, Fallow and Jammz (not to mention that whole K9 mixtape), but radio’s perhaps where it’s most healthy. There’s a stack of hungry, talented MCs out there (10 of them profiled here) who’re on radio stations like Rinse, Mode and Radar every other night (plus Sian Anderson’s 1xtra show on occasion), and are as prepared to spit on weird beats as they are traditional 8-bar grime. Grime radio feels vibrant, healthy, instinctive and exciting again.
Even better: some of the most promising radio regulars have already started to release singles and EPs, solidifying their hypest radio lyrics as actual songs. Grime’s past is full of MCs who were big on radio but never released a record (or, even worse, promised a mixtape for years that never came); this lot already seem to be learning from those mistakes.
Note: We’ve not included Jammz in this list, as he’s broken clear a little (he’s not quite at Stormzy’s stature, say, but already been on the front page of Observer Music and is playing MOBOs events), but you ought to be up on him anyway. Also watch for YGG, who haven’t released anything yet but are a force of nature in raves, and Rocks, who is doing regular damage on radio and is a strong producer to boot.
AJ Tracey – The Front
AJ ‘From the Lane’ Tracey – who isn’t from Tottenham, but has a lot of bars about Tottenham – already had a couple of big tracks bubbling (‘Mortal Kombat’ and ‘Swerve & Skid’) but The Front proves that he’s one of the most charismatic, diverse MCs from the new breed. He can do sweetboy sex jams (‘Wifey Riddim’), waved club cuts (‘Red Bull’) and even yardie flows, and you get the impression there’s a lot more to come from him.
Big Zuu – Big Who?
Big Zuu is slightly less slick than AJ, but makes up for that with raspy aggression – though he’s not one of these guys who falls off beat every time he raises his voice. Big Who? sets out his M.O. in six short, sharp tracks, backed by a combination of minimal, tribal productions and orchestral rap beats.
Mic Ty – Just ‘Av Dis
Mic Ty doesn’t bill Just ‘Av Dis as a mixtape or an EP (spoiler: it’s basically the latter!) but it hardly matters. He’s got a casual authority on mic that’s impossible to deny (Big Zuu calls him the “undisputed champ”), and now close collaborator Jammz is getting daytime BBC 1xtra play, it’s quite possible that he’ll be the next through that door. Production comes from Jammz, Spooky, Lolingo and more.
Kwam – I Don’t Know
Kwam’s been around the block – there’s a few old mixtapes and EPs on his Bandcamp – but he’s been doing the radio rounds with the likes of Jammz and Rocks of late, and fits in with this lot pretty well. He’s a big old hippie with a tricky flow, basically (he bigs up “every living organism” within a minute of I Don’t Know), and production comes from Trends, Shy One and more. ‘Thinking Aloud’ is the stand-out.
Mez – 28
Nottingham’s Mez is already getting co-signs all over the place – he’s just come off a tour with Kano and Elijah & Skilliam, in fact – and his 28 EP dropped at the end of May. There’s obvious D Double combinations to be made with Mez’s voice and flow, but on 28 he proves that he’s his own man, collaborating with Teddy Music, Jammz and more.