Wednesday, 24 December 2008

"Usually Drink, Usually Dance, Usually Bubble"

I remember JME welcoming the new year, while hosting the Boy Better Know Rinse FM show on Christmas Day 2007. The mood was happy, with the anticipation of a new start. Big things would happen. In a way, the expectations were realised.

Wiley made Wearing My Rolex on his January birthday and, if he hadn't, the scene would have been very different this year. 'Electro-grime' was born. Despite the Guardian columns, its not a genre; it's just a few tunes that followed the original by Wiley and Bless Beats. I suppose the main reason for defining music into a genre is for marketability. However, only the first charted so it all looks like a big, commercial failure.

Top 4 Desperate Attempts For Mainsteam Paper

1) Lethal B - Keys To The Bentley
2) Ribz & Skepta - Dance Like Me
3) Mz Bratt - What Would You Do?
4) God's Gift - Ringtone

I suppose the electro, cross-over tracks cemented the idea of the 'artist'; making the one, the tune that brings new opportunties and recognition. For me, one of the most disappointing moments of this year was Fuck Radio 6. On it's own, the set was perfectly fine, but it's a blot on the previous five sets and the name of the 'Fuck Radio' series. Only three MCs turned up; Double S had never featured on one before. The rest couldn't spit on the radio any more; they were artists.

The set was on Logan Sama's show, and his broadcast has been part of the revitalisation of radio in the last few months. However, his national show doesn't dwarf the efforts of other DJs, who have travelled to the pirates in the late hours. The likes of Spyro have given a good account of the genre on tour, but sets from Vectra, Silencer, Sketche, Score Five, JJ and others, including up-comers such as Meshack Nasty, isn't forgotten. The last few months of radio has been very strong, and just about saves face for a year as a whole in which the radio too often gave quiet crackles.

Best Radio MC Award

1) Jendor
2) P-Money
3) Blacks

However, a side-affect of the artist talk is that mixtapes are a much more professional affair. Announcements today of Zavvi being placed in administration isn't a good look for the MCs who jubilantly announce on Logan's show that their latest is stocked there, but it is more indicative of CDs being more viable products to a wider audience. Bashy's 'Chupa Chups' mixtape was praised last year for its 29 tracks. Such a move now would be seen differently, which reflects the change in mixtapes and the rise of EPs and albums. Also, with the lack of raves and the dominance of the internet, free downloads have increased greatly, and in both quality and quantity.

Top 2 CDs That Didn't Get The Praise They Deserved

1) Little Nasty - Hungry Season (some old songs, but they're good)
2) Warlock - Friend Of Mine, Foe Of The Music

Best Free Download

1) P-Money A Little Back Then With Now
2) Griminal - Not Just Barz
3) Brutal - 10% Effort

You can't begrudge an MC sitting in the studio, carton of Ribena in hand, contemplating their next hit as an artist. Times have moved on, and it's necessary to have a professional frame of mind for prolonged success. All the same, the classic moments that shine in grime's past from a fan's point of view have all but gone. There's been a sad lack of hype this year, and even a part of that has seemed contrived.

Most Hype Moment of 2008

Killa P sending for Trim on Rinse. (It was so greazy I had to run from my computer and sit in a fully-lit room for half an hour).

However, there's still the amateurish moments. With the rise of the arist, most these days revolve around MCs wading into unfamiliar waters. Kano made a fair point a while back, about the first grime MCs peeping their heads above the parapet without any precedent to follow. I should have some sympathy, and from Wiley's RWD Forum cries for help I do. A bit. But comedy is comedy.

Top 2 Cringe-worthy Moments

1) UK Cypher - Chipmunk, Ghetto and Skepta at the BET Awards
2) Skepta playing Timmy's Mallet with Kelly Osbourne

There were genuinely funny moments though.

Top 3

1) Dot Rotten walking out in the middle of his Logan Sama set
2) Skitz Beatz skanking, contrasting to the no-nonsense pose with Styles P
3) The offical video for Rolex Sweep

Just a couple other ones.

The 'Grime Has Blown' Award 2008

1) Wiley shouting "OLI OLI OLI" with Hot Chip at Glastonbury Festival. And you thought Dizzee with the Arctic Monkeys was big.
2) Busta Rhymes moving from the Tribe Called Quest days to the Rolex Sweep
3) Erm, Mistajam doing the Rolex Sweep

The Rolex Sweep all seemed like innocent fun, until Skepta took things a bit too serious and felt obliged to give instructions. No freestyling allowed, but Macarena shuffles and all sorts. Rolex Sweep is serious business.

Finally, a mention for Ears. He comes back to the scene early this year after prolonged speculation on his whereabouts, drops his mixtape Millionears, only then to swish his cape and disappear into the darkness about a week after he came back.

I wonder what he makes of the electro-grime Rolex-ing business. Although someone would have to find him first.

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