A tribute to Tony Allen, by Emma-Jean Thackray
‘Grime 2.0’ is Big Dada’s survey of a genre that, though it never really died, is definitely having a moment now. The energy of early grime, with the added nous and innovations of a new generation, has made the past few years great for instrumental grime – with young people starting out, veterans finally getting their dues, outsiders drawing in influences and others picking up tools for the second time round. This compilation focuses specifically on the shift – this “second wave” of producers. It’s not ranked by date or place: just 35 tracks from 35 producers over two discs – some older, some younger and coming from London to Southampton to Bristol to Glasgow, the Midlands to Manchester to Belfast and overseas from New York, Toronto and Tokyo.
Sinister, aggressive, loud, exuberant, reflective and even sensual, styles move from the dark foreboding bass of Gumnaam, the expansive electro of MRK1, Shy One’s nostalgia, Inkke’s re-wired Eski and Spooky’s claustrophobic 8-bar – with new tracks from pivotal figures Wiley and Youngstar included too. In other parts, Faze Miyake’s 5000 and Darq E Freaker’s Trojan show the best of the genre’s hip hop influence, and there are also beats from TRC, Preditah, Mr. SnoWman and Moony showcasing some of its finest melodies. It’s an impossible group to really define so it’s best to leave it to the producers themselves to talk us through some their contributions, introduced by the compilation curator Joe Muggs.
What is Grime 2.0?
Joe Muggs: A deliberately ambiguous title.
What was your criteria for an artist/track making the cut?
Joe Muggs: It had to be grime! I’m not being facile here – the point was that the compilation was going to demonstrat e the range of what grime could be, so I selected things that ranged from the most far out to the most commercial and crowd-pleasing, from the most aggro to the most contemplative, from producers who are foundational participants in the very heart of the grime scene to those who are completely outside that scene, but made sure that each track could stand up on its own as a grime track.
Any favourites you’d care to go into a little detail about?
Joe Muggs: Oh man, how to pick? Some of my personal favourites are artists I wasn’t familiar with until I started researching for the album. Swifta Beater’s track is astounding, I love the way it sounds like a mid 2000s dubstep wobbler, yet is both bang up to date and unmistakably grime, and how those string melodies on it manage to update it and polish up something from old school grime without seeming like a gentrification or watering down. Major Grave, from Dublin, likewise references the old school without really being retro as such – something he shares with Slackk, who put me on to him – and also I love the maximalism of his track, it is a nice rejoinder to people who assume that grime is all sparse Eskibeat. Got to mention Footsie and Darq E Freaker, who I picked to start off each disc of the set with a bang – both those tracks are absolute war machines for any DJ – but then those are set against the amazing delicateness of Visionist’s track or the late night creepy-crawling of Wiley’s one… see, again, it’s about the variety, how the tracks work together rather than picking individual ones.
Why did now feel like the right time to release a compilation like this?
Joe Muggs: A whole set of things have come together. People have realised that grime is not just another trend, and realised that it hasn’t been erased just because some of its MCs moved on to pop careers, or because some of its audience moved on to UK rap or funky house. It is now a settled part of the UK – and global – music ecosystem. But it’s also grown up, its leaders are a bit older and more settled. A scene of people that started – as Logan Sama points out in the sleeve notes – as “outcasts” from UK garage, with little to no understanding of the industry, have learned on the job and worked out it is possible to remain grime but also reach out to other scenes and areas of music… and you have younger guys like Butterz, too, who come at it with fresh passion and marketing nous – without Butterz it’s questionable whether this compilation would be possible. New interest in bassy hip hop instrumentals – sorry, tr*p beats – in the US has perhaps opened up a space where people can listen to the production of grime and appreciate it too. On top of all that you have renewed interest in the past, partly thanks to crate diggers like Ben UFO and Bok Bok, so older beats by the likes of Footsie, Youngstar, P Jam, Spooky and co., that casual listeners might only ever have heard on pirate radio if at all, are getting dusted off and given a new lease of life with reissues and remixes – which means anyone discovering grime production for the first time now has an absolute embarrassment of riches to discover.
How has grime developed over the last few years?
Joe Muggs: One of the things I love most about it is that it is so undefined that linear development is next to impossible. What it’s done, I guess, is spread out rather than “developed” as such – there’s just more variety than ever to it. You might get certain huge tracks, whether it’s Darq E Freaker’s ‘Next Hype’ or Spooky’s ‘Spartan’ beats, but they don’t define what grime is any more than Faze Miyake’s 808 laden stuff does right now.
And finally, crystal ball time: where is it headed next?
Joe Muggs: Everywhere! Grime MCs might be more attracted to the 808-laden “trap” -style beats at the moment, there’s enough richness of genetic material for producers to play with to stop that becoming the predominant sound. I have no doubt that it will continue to catch on internationally – whether it’s electronica / dubstep heads catching on to the more experimental producers like Shy One and Visionist, or Plastician and Joker bringing grime beats to the mainstream rave crowds in the US, the world is ready for grime, and grime is ready to reach out to the world…
‘Grime 2.0’ preview mixed by DJ Cable
1. Footsie – Oh My Gosh
Footsie: With this beat I set out to make something different. I wanted to make something really dark and in your face so I used a strong sound set, with slow, stomping drums, spooky filter rises and crazy hoovers. It’s definitely an angry tune.
2. Tre Mission – Dollar Bill
3. Teeza – Rum and Coke
Teeza: For the most part my ideas for music come out of the blue or scanning through sounds within the plug-ins I use. On this occasion, the sound was inspired by the workmen next door. At one particular point the drilling has a rhythmic pattern to it which I interpreted into music and brought to life in FL Studio. As for the name – it just happened to be my beverage of choice at the time.
4. Visionist – Dem Times
Visionist: My track Dem Times is very much a reference track with the sample saying “let me know”. I’m usually quite experimental but for this I wanted to strip it back to the bare bones of the grime sound I grew up on: catchy little melody, big bass hits and nice R&B vocal sample. I’ve purposely looked for a sample from a MC in south London as this is where I’m from it’s Jendor saying “this is grime”. The flip in the middle of the track also is me referencing south London grime with a kind of mix-up between Bossman & Young Dot with a my own twist.
5. Faze Miyake – 5000
Faze Miyake: I remember that night I was testing out some new ways of mixing down and that’s what came out. I made the beat pretty quick but spent hours mixing it down and trying out new stuff. I was actually gonna give the track away for free and it’s called 5000 because I reached 5000 followers on Twitter that night haha. Lucky I held it back. It’s bangin’ so I hope you got a good sound system for it!
6. TRC – Cartwheel
7. Chaos & Order – Logan’s Mind
Chaos & Order: Logan’s Mind is inspired by R35’s favourite X-Men character Lucky Jim – I mean Wolverine. We find his story fascinating in that he has amnesia. The track is our guess on what is going on in his head.
8. Preditah – Vinyls VIP
9. Youngstar – Loop 29
10. Chimpo – Codeine and Dragon Stout
11. Decibel – Bend
Decibel: Simply put wanted something with an “old skool” grime vibe to it. Not over produced with a harsh 16bit sound to it. Just wanted something that felt and sounded like what I used to listen to on my Minidisc/Walkman on the back of the 86 bus.
12. Shy One – 927
Shy One: This track was me revisiting grime but also the time when I was most obsessed with it, when I’d listen to Freeze 92.7 FM religiously. In the intro you’re travelling back via cassette to this era. The samples in it are from an old Mucky Wolfpack set, before I added them Joe Muggs suggested I use some radio sound FX, I put in samples from the set and it was the missing piece, gave the beat that nostalgic feel I was after with actual audio from the time I had in mind. I’m happy with how it came out and to just be apart of the ‘Grime 2.0’ project, as I get to pay homage to the genre that first got me into producing.
13. Inkke – L-O-K
Inkke: I don’t really think I had much of a plan when I started the project. I know I wanted to keep the beat pretty spaced out and minimal, yet have quite a lot of other little things going on throughout the track. I had a selection of sounds I wanted to use and I think I managed to fit them all in. The production flowed quite well and I think the track was finished in two or three sessions.
14. J-Beatz – Shotta Krew
J-Beatz: Shotta Krew came about from a string loop that my good friend Richard Hastings gave to me two years ago. I tried to work around the loop a couple times but failed to deliver anything worth listening to. Two years later I was making beats going through some samples and loops I had and I came across the string loop and thought I’d give it another go. To my luck it came out a lot better then the last few attempts I tried working with the loop. The track means quite a lot to me cos when I first tried to work with the loop nothing good came out and I came back to it two years later and the track’s on a big grime compilation album which shows the progress I’ve made!
15. Matt Shadetek – Battery Charge
16. Juzlo – Nail Thrower
Juzlo: It’s an ode to the amazing T.V series The Wire’, the sample is Snoop bragging about her recently purchased nail gun. This track had been sitting in my hard drive for a while, I recently went back and touched it up a bit, switched up the bass-line and chucked a mad filter on the mid bass which sounded beefy as! This track means alot to myself in that its a great example of my sound and energy and also to represent and showcase to the world grime in Australia is poppin’ off!
17. Major Grave – Like A G
Major Grave: Like a lot of music I make there was no real plan to start, I just sat down in the studio and started making a beat, after a bit when I got into it I wanted to put everything in it… everything haha! It’s a very busy, full sounding track and that was the idea. Loud, exciting and busy! There is everything in it, big bass, big drums, big effects, big strings even big guitars, haha. Like with a lot of my music I wanted it to be different from the last tracks I made, and it was but obviously keeping certain elements similar. From there this tune was just sitting on my hard drive for ages. I was in college at the time so I didn’t really do anything with it or the other tunes I made around that time. Then Slackk got in touch with me about putting out an EP and I sent him over loads of music. That is when he asked if I was cool with him sending some of it over to Joe Muggs and explained about the Big Dada grime album (around the same time J Beatz asked if he could forward my music onto Joe too, big up J Beatz!) I was only to happy to go along with that.
I don’t know if it would be a tune I would have sent in for the Grime 2.0 album myself – not that I wasn’t happy with it at all, I am. I wouldn’t have gone with it in the end if I wasn’t. It was just that it was older (though only by a couple of months) than my music that was fresh to my ears then and there, if that makes sense to you.
01. Darq E Freaker – Trojan
02. Moony – Winner
03. Mr SnoWman – Frosty Lake
04. Mr Mitch – Viking
Mr Mitch: A lot of the time when I make music I visualise it, it turns into a little movie in my head. For some reason while creating this track I was picturing myself on a Viking longboat crossing the sea, it’s dark and windy and there’s a storm coming, the sky is purple and filled with flashes of light from the lightning. I can’t explain why this is the image that I visualise but it’s what I see every time I play it and the image its extremely detailed.
05. Wiley – Logic Pro
06. MRK1 – Smash It Up Hard
07. Prettybwoy – Kissin U
Prettybwoy: I didn’t plan this track to sound as it does, so to speak, it kind of found its groove itself. I started out making a more garage style beat using a soft synth preset that I felt sat nicely with the other tones I had going on in the track. Each step of the way, I would pause and listen to what I had just made, tweaking it slightly giving it the balance and space I felt it needed. This gradual chopping and editing of the track kinda lead it down the path of a grime beat while maintaining its garage vibe, and in this sense the track found its own sound naturally. The crossover sound of grime and garage is definitely the kind of groove I feel sums me up as a DJ and producer so I was happy with the outcome. Finally when my girl Yukako stepped up and laid down the vocals I felt the track came full circle and completed itself.
08. Swifta Beater – Numb VIP
Swifta Beater: The original instrumental Numb was a bit of an experiment into “Bass” for me and was taken from my slightly more experimental EP ‘Move [To Da Bass]’. I have made a lot of Bassline house music in the past but I wanted to have something that had a dubstep sort of sound but done in my own grimey way. Once I had made the original, Manga from Roll Deep heard it and wanted it for a project him and Wiley were working on, however like most things in grime, things quickly changed and it ended up being vocalled by the whole of Roll Deep!
This was my first piece of work with Roll Deep (but not the last) and it was then I decided it would be good to make a VIP version. So I did! I had only been using it in my own DJ sets but now with the release of ‘Grime 2.0’, it’s available for everyone to spin for themselves!
09. SNK – Mongrel
10. Royal-T – Space Cowboy VIP
11. Stenchman – Machine Molester
Stenchman: The track was written as an outlandish social commentary about human’s need for devices. I engineered transitional noises in the music to invoke imagery of the future symbiotic co-existence of man and computer. There is a slight juxtaposition of post-apocalyptic ideology, making the listener wonder “Would I kill for food if I had to?” The track itself was written while locked in a nuclear bunker so that I could really create the mindset of a music producer who may be the last one alive, eating only dried fruit and corned beef for three weeks. The song was originally written in Morse Code but was later reformatted due to an incident with a naval vessel. The drums in the final composition are not actually drums but processed samples of the noise an ATM machine makes when you try to finger it.
12. Sinden – Arcane
Sinden: Arcane is my first attempt at making a grime beat. When Joe Muggs approached me I was frothing to do something as a big fan of the genre – I still have all my grime 12“s stashed away. I kept my track loyal to the old 8 bar sound, with the sounds I used, the beat alternating slightly every 8 bars without getting to overly tricksy in the arrangement, just adding a few subtleties and bass warps. At the time of making this beat I was reading a lot of Swamp Thing comics which I’m obsessed with, hence the track title (named after the villain, Arcane). Its a creepy rotting beast of a beat, definitely the darkest piece of music I’ve ever made.
13. Slackk – Spray
Slackk: The core of this track had been knocking around for ages to be honest- I just had this nagging little bassline that I’d wrote during the period I was making my ‘Raw Missions’ EP and I kept coming back to it, playing around and getting nowhere. I finished it after a weird gig in Amsterdam last year in my hotel room – I’d been playing with these people doing odd visuals above me of all these forests and that. I’d mixed the rough draft of this coming out of this old Iron Soul tune; it wasn’t in key but the idea of all these strings going over the top of it really struck me as the way I should take it. So about six in the morning in the hotel room with some amnesia haze I was writing these fake string flourishes on the little Akai MPK I travel with and it was done. I thought I’d wake up and hate it but I haven’t touched it since.
14. Spooky – Moonlight
Spooky: Can’t remember too much about how the track came about but I remember wanting to build a track around an orchestral stab. Built an 8 bar switch-style structure around it, create a eerie sounding bassline, add an owl, bring in a Wookie-style intro and “Hey presto!”: we have Moonlight.
15. Starkey – Tunnel
Starkey: Tunnel was structured as a throwback 8-bar grime track that has two sections that repeat back and forth but develop along the way. A lot of my favourite tracks follow the 8-bar scheme, so I thought it would be cool to use that as the basis of the tune. The track also flips back and forth from half-time to double time, which was also something I deliberately wanted to pursue with the track.
16. TC4 – Lazer Riddem
17. Gumnaam – Desi Bullet
18. Threnody – Emergency
Threnody: This track just came out of a late night studio session. I had an idea for a track that had three drops with each one putting different focus on the bass. I wanted the track to be immediate and upfront but with a sense of space. I finished it at 6am and by midday it was signed to this compilation.