Grime, like many other London genres born in the suburbs, is living a second youth these days. The number of MCs and producers is slowly growing; the radio shows dedicated to the sound are increasing in audience and repercussions, not only in the UK but internationally. The internet helped the style go worldwide, not only with regards to the audience, but also to non-British DJs playing grime tracks in their sets, and producers from all over the globe manufacturing riddims with the same ease as any of their colleagues on the British isles. The endogamic isolation that marked the first golden age of grime is finally broken, where it initially made the sound enter a harmful vicious circle with only two ways out: go all or nothing in the mainstream, or be swallowed up by the next current created by the hard-core continuum, dubstep.
From inside the scene, Elijah & Skilliam are directing one of the key labels in this renovation, apart from hosting two weekly hours of grime on Rinde FM. Butterz isn't the only label that helped the regeneration and transformation, but it's one of the most prolific, and one of the platforms that best managed to set the genre's new standards. The key: an open mind, capable of taking on adjacent rhythms, such as bassline, speed garage, UK funky, and hip-hop, without prejudice. Proof of that is their set we recorded recently at Razzmatazz in Barcelona, on 28th June's edition of The Bus. We spoke with the duo about the state of things in grime, as seen from the inside.
You’ve just arrived from New York, where you were with Royal T. Is it the main city in the world paying attention to grime? How did you feel playing to an American audience?
Geography isn't really important any more; we are reaching people all over the world the same way we reach local audiences now, so I wouldn't say we are really breaking any particular country. Just small groups of people pick up on it and do their own parties and invite us to play at them too. In some cases they have been buying grime for a long time, but in their areas there have been no places to play the records.
And now you are in Spain. Do you think there’s some kind of “fever” with Grime beyond UK borders? If that’s so, why is this happening now? Has it something to do with the internet and/or the kind of sound that grime producers are doing lately (more related with rap, more danceable…)?
I think the way we push it is in the same vein as the rest of 'bass music' from the UK, rather than a completely different thing, so people understand it on that level. They don't have to follow the scene, or know all the MCs anymore to enjoy it; they can just pick up a podcast or a record and listen to it on individual merit and mix it with the rest of their music they are listening too. It’s different, but not as different as people make it out to be.
Regarding the geographic success of grime, I once read a tweet from you about being proud of releasing music from people outside of London, like Royal T from Southampton. Do you think there’s a kind of reaction against grime madeoutside of London? Like people thinking that out-of-London grime is inferior to that coming from the city?
It doesn't apply with producers. You can be from anywhere as long as you make big tracks people will work with you. It has more affected MCs because of accents. A lot of people have grown up now just listening to American and London accents, so it is a struggle to accept anything new. I’m a bit older, and I remember when people used to laugh at any English accent. It is changing slowly. With the radio show, I just play the best of what I get sent, so I rarely know the locations of the producers. But in one show I can easily get through producers from America, Spain, Germany, France, Australia, the UK and Ireland. Not that we are doing it on purpose, it’s just because the music is good.
More geographic stuff… In recent years we have seen people from different parts of the world enter the grime scene: Bloom from Northern Ireland, Noaipre from Spain, Tre Mission from Canada. Do you think the genre can evolve into other subgenres, with it opening up worldwide?
It depends on what they choose to do with their music. If they start their own labels, or get signed to a really big established ones then it would spread the music in a totally different way to working with us. If that happens then I think more people would realise how open it is to get in compared to other scenes.
a criteria, just
play the same
way I would
play at home"
Is the scene experiencing a second chance or it is just a feeling that people from the outside have? What is the state of the scene right now regarding events, labels being interested and releasing stuff, general music media supporting the scene?
I try not to pay attention to the ‘Grime Scene’, we just do our thing, put out grime tunes just like any other electronic label. If we just viewed ourselves within the grime scene, we would be the top of that with no contest. We are enjoying the challenge of breaking new areas, bringing the vibes to new places and making new people care about this music. Butterz is a sustainable label at the moment, we don't release loads of records, but any time we do put something out it’s usually something that has been heavily demanded.
If you listen to contemporary grime you can recognize different versions of the music, one more “bassline danceable”, another one really in touch with rap and especially southern rap. Where is the sound going to?
My personal preference is the danceable version, always has been always will be. I don't even listen to US hip hop anymore and haven't for a long time. There is a split in the scene with people that enjoy one and people that enjoy the other, it’s confusing, but variety is good for creativity.
This year we have got two icons from grime, Dizzee and Wiley, releasing mixtapes and going back to their roots. Did you expect this come back from both of them and what do you think about both mixtapes?
I don't really care about the mixtapes, wish they just put out credible grime singles with a good push like how they did before, instead of putting out pop records all the time. It’s just throwaway music to me, so you will barely hear me playing those tunes.
Back in the day, the genre grew up paying more attention to MCs. But now it seems to have more attention to instrumentals than to vocals. Is that because there are less MCs than before? Do you think the absence of MC battles (although Lord Of The Mics and Eskimo Dance parties are back again) has something to do with this change?
That's just the way Butterz have changed things really, if you listen to other radio shows, or check out different blogs, they are still MC dominated. There is probably more music than ever before from MCs, it’s just not for me. It is nice to have the choice though, as a lot of people that listen to grime don't really care about what we do either, so I’m glad we are not under pressure from the scene to represent both sides.
Tell us your three favourite producers and three MCs right now. Who is going to be the next big thing in Butterz (like Royal T was with Orangeade)?
It always sounds biased when I’m asked to pick favourites as I always try and work with people I like. MC wise it’s Trim, P Money and JME, producer wise it’s Royal-T, Champion and Swindle at the moment. But that can change weekly.
Last one. What were the criteria to choose the songs that you just played in The Bus @ Razzmatazz? Do you have different criteria if the gig is not in London?
Never have a criteria, just play the same way I would play at home. That’s the best way of giving people a taste of our style.
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