Sunday, 3 February 2008

Grime + Dubstep = The Way FWD>>

With the start of a new year for grime, it is hard to know what to expect. However, one of the strengths of this music is the diverse range of influences from which it draws upon, and perhaps the influence of dubstep is one that will colour grime to a great extent in 2008.

Indeed, the similarity of the two has been stressed. Both genres originate in the London area, and both around the turn of the millennium. Dubstep has even been cited as the ‘cousin’ of grime, with its predominance of minimalist, spaced-out beats harking back to the early days of the development of grime and Wiley’s ‘Eski’ sound.

In the last year the two have certainly shown correlation. Durrty Goodz widely-acclaimed ‘Axiom’ EP undeniably drew upon dubstep influences,Roll Deep’s Flow Dan and Killa P have fearured on Kode 9 productions and even the Newham Generals, containing grime stalwarts D Double E and Footsie, have increasingly drawn upon the sound, announcing a unique and exciting approach that may well be seen on their debut album, ‘Generally Speaking’. Such dubstep influences can be heard on their weekly radio sets on Rinse FM, with the Generals’ DJ Tubby regularly dropping tracks by dubstep heavyweights Skream, Benga, and Coki. One of dubstep’s biggest hits of 2007, Benga and Coki’s ‘Night’, has been played by Logan Sama on the only total grime show on legal radio in the world.

The importance of radio in the grime scene cannot be underestimated, and the decision by Rinse FM to ban grime being played by its DJs in late 2007 arguably had wider ramifications, urging the need for artists to explore other sounds yet still preside over engaging sets. However there is the problem of the aesthetics of grime and dubstep which, while having similarities and even crossovers, are different. The aesthetics aren't always compatible - in the aftermath of Rinse prohibiting grime being played on the station, Rinse FM’s DJ Tootsi was

‘contemplating on doing a show just playing dubstep’.

Despite this, he adds

‘I don’t think I could, I do like dubstep but if I'm honest a lot of it bores me. If I couldn’t play grime on my show I’d probably be playing 4x4 bassline instead of dubstep’.

Again related to the music’s different aesthetics is the matter of production. The hype an MC can give to a track is reflected in seemingly more simple grime production in relation to dubstep, which is generally marked by an 8/16 bar intro with no bass, straight into a 16 bar verse, followed by a looped 8-bar chorus. The more linear approach to grime production allows MCs to add energy to a track with gradual emphasis, which is in contrast to the largely instrumental nature of dubstep which allows its producers to explore with more complex song structures. Such a clear distinction is fundamentally tied to the different aesthetics of both genres, which again can be seen in Tootsi’s views in that

‘a lot of the tunes are more complex but that don’t make them better at all… if there was a boring tune that sounded great or a hype track which could sound better I would be playing the hype track every time’.

The scenes have had some contact for some time now, most conspicuously from Skream and his crossover hit ‘Midnight Request Line’. Skepta vocalled the tune and Wiley showed interest, so the influence has stayed, though now in a form that suggests the grime scene has taken the sound as its own. Examples of this hybrid can be heard in Footsie’s new productions, which provide hype yet maintain a similar sound. The approach of grime artists drawing from dubstep relates to the views of Tootsi's views:

‘I always find that grime fans and DJs are a lot more open to dubstep music than the dubstep fans and DJs are open to grime. You will hear grime DJs playing all the biggest dubstep tracks but you will never hear a dubstep DJ playing a big grime tune - I’ve got no clue why this is though’.

Perhaps it is just the nature of grime music. A journalist once famously coined the phrase that grime was ‘the bastard’ of hip hop and garage. The term has derogatory connotations, but also reflects the music’s energy and grittiness, as well its ability to linger in the UK underground. As a music with so many influences, perhaps this latest trend is just another example of grime doing what it does best, in turn proving itself to be the most exciting and innovative music on the underground.

Thanks to DJ Tootsi, catch his show on Rinse FM every Satuday night from 1-3 AM

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