Illustration by: Dan Evans
The big story in grime last year was the rise of a new generation of MCs.
But there was plenty of new talent bubbling up on the instrumental scene as well, even if it wasn’t quite as obvious at first glance. On the surface, 2015 saw crews like Boxed, Butterz and Bandulu solidify their positions in terms of rave, radio and releases – the class of 2012-2014 graduating to full-on musical careers and tastemaker status.
On the low however, with more hours of grime on radio than anytime since the genre’s golden era, there were plenty of newcomers competing for airplay. Some rehashed the same old square waves and eski clicks, but many more showed hints of an original voice, earning crucial cosigns from DJs like Slimzee, Spooky, Mr Mitch and Slackk in the process.
With that in mind, here are 10 producers it’s worth keeping an eye on in 2016. We’re not including producers behind the Jammz/Mez/YGG/MPT/Mic Ty axis here – top talent with some great beats to boot, but those acts already owned 2015. Most of these producers have already released music in some form or another, and we suspect bigger moves to come.
With a solid dozen Rinse FM plays by DJs including Slimzee, Slackk, Mumdance, Logos and even Dappa adorning his SoundCloud page, As.If Kid doesn’t need our cosign. He’s come up the old fashioned way, by getting good tunes into the right DJs’ hands (or inboxes).
Specializing in dark, percussive riddims sparse enough for MCs but energetic enough for the instrumental scene, it’s unsurprising that he’s found a champion in Slimzee, whose current techy, uptempo style once again serves as a crucial bridge to both sides of the scene.
It makes perfect sense that Lloyd SB’s vinyl debut would be on the Boxed label. His sound is smack dab in the middle of the four residents’ aesthetics: emotional but rugged, percussive but floating, functional to anyone familiar with grime’s rules but completely bizarre to outsiders.
But if December’s ‘X Out’ felt like pure grime, much of Lloyd SB’s best material combines the genre’s glass textures and laser bass blasts with American club music’s bump and flex, bringing a latent Night Slugs influence back into grime’s fold and reaffirming how danceable it can get. Surely now’s the time for a full EP?
Unlike most producers on this list, Odeko doesn’t have much public music to his name beyond a guest mix on the Boxed show and some SoundCloud loosies, but what we’ve heard hints at an expansive approach exploring the hidden connections between Rapid at his most lovelorn and electronic experiments by James Blake or Oneohtrix Point Never.
With a forthcoming EP on Gobstopper, he’s got a ton of potential to add nuance and shading to the label’s emotional grime deconstructions, and the outside influences carry a welcome influx of new ideas at a time when the genre can feel a bit self-referential. Trust us on this one.
Straight out of Lewisham, Ezro spent 2015 bubbling on radio with his beats becoming canvases for countless MC shelling sessions. Repping The Vision Crew, a hotly tipped collective in their own right, his productions were unavoidable on Radar and it’s fair to say that he’s become one of the station’s break out beatmakers, merging classic grime sonics with contemporary hip-hop influences.
His beat to AJ Tracey’s ‘Spirit Bomb’ showcases his frostier sound, merging Street Fighter samples with drill’s frigidity, but keep an eye out for his soulful side – there’s more to his sound than just the hard stuff.
It’s easy to forget about Rocks FOE’s talent on the beats when he’s tearing apart a microphone, but like Dizzee and Wiley, or more recently Novelist and Jammz, his production is an undeniable part of his appeal.
As dark as any sound to have come out of Croydon, Rocks’ production is equal parts grime, hip-hop and trap with a dash of metal, industrial and video game music thrown in for good measure. Though he’s shown no inclination to share those beats with his peers yet, you can bet that any MC would jump at the chance to mangle ‘Hold That (L)’.
The secret weapon behind the Oil Gang sound, you may know Boylan as one third of Edgem and the engineer for releases by JT The Goon and Dullah Beatz. But while his name is low-key, his sound isn’t: Boylan’s edits of Wonder’s ‘What’ and Dizzee’s ‘I Luv U’ are an explosive, high definition take on grime’s usual grit, resulting in multiple plays on the Boxed Boiler Room and a whole lot of scrunched faces when their basslines hit.
It’s a sound that owes a substantial debt to drum and bass’s precision engineering, and in anyone else’s hands it’d be too much, but Boylan knows exactly when to pull back and let the track breathe for maximum impact – something you’ll hear more of this year on collaborations with Slackk and Spooky and some solo originals.
Like As.If Kid, Jook’s a producer who has come up through radio plays from tastemakers like Slimzee, Trends and Faze Miyake. Those names should give you an idea of what you’re in for: proper pirate bass and darkness, but also light percussion that keeps things moving.
His Lean Back EP on Certified Bangers set the pace with Middle Eastern strings and square wave melodies, and his label Say Nothing will be launching on Radar Radio with a back-to-back set with Score5, Jack Dat and Ghost – strong company if we do say so ourselves.
Across most genres, SoundCloud bootlegs are the bane of a clubber’s existence – they’re usually pointless and almost always poorly made – but grime’s always had a knack for flipping samples, a trend amplified by the success of legends like Spooky and bootleg dons like Gundam.
“Choppage” (for lack of a better term) isn’t just hear to stay, it’s actually the most welcome example of sampling and mashup culture in years, and Glasgow’s Polonis has been making a serious play for your favorite DJ’s attention in recent months. Dicing everything from jazzy UK hip-hop to up-to-the-second grime bangers, his Refixmas giveaway went far deeper than the average zip, and forthcoming work with his hometown’s Levels Syndicate bodes well for the future.
T_A_M and Tarquin aren’t exactly brand new to the scene, but the stuff they’ve got in store for 2016 is about to kick their hype into overdrive. First, T_A_M’s ‘Watty’ will be appearing on Coyote Records with a Tarquin edit on the flip, marking a departure from the label’s recent forays into space in favor of a jerky, cartoony soundscape.
Keen radio listeners will already have heard Tarquin’s ‘Curly Wurly’ with YGG’s Lyrical Strally, one of the most exciting meetings of the Boxed sound and vocal grime since Mumdance and Nov’s ‘Take Time’. Finally, T_A_M’s got a full EP dropping later this year on Local Action, and his There All is Aching free release just saw light of day via SoundCloud.
Listen to Fallow and Grizzle’s collaborative EP and you might start gurning on impact: though the drum patterns are all grime, there’s a massive dose of trance in the mix, with giant synths made for cathedral-like clubs and enough melody to outdo the Dance Dance Revolution game on the cover art.
Fallow’s a known entity, but Grizzle’s got just as much to do with this love of sugar, be it in dance music or R&B form, and his forthcoming solo debut promises to satiate any sweet tooths who’ve been pining for the return of chipmunk soul.