Introduction to: Grime Instrumentals

Whereas dubstep rather unfortunately mutated into “HERE COMES THE DROP!!!” fodder for jager fuelled EDM bros, grime has managed to stay much closer to its roots as l’enfant terrible of British underground music.

That’s not to say grime’s progression over the last 10 years has been easy going.  Comments like “bring back grime” and “grime is dead” are a frequent sight on old YouTube rips of classic tracks, providing an interesting timeline of the numerous ebbs and flows in the genre’s popularity.  The career trajectory of grime MC to mainstream rap/pop artist, as exemplified by Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, Tinie Tempah, Tinchy Stryder  etc, didn’t do a lot to help boost creativity in the genre.  The uninspiring output of many of these MCs has perhaps been one of the reasons for a renewed focus on the production side of things in recent years.

Since its inception grime has always been home to some of the weirdest and most interesting electronic music in British history. While the internet is awash with bland and generic “deep house” tracks, grime has never really suffered from the same problem. This is probably because grime has much more of an “anything goes” attitude to production. So it’s not at all surprising that many of the more experimental producers in UK electronic music have been so inspired by the genre. Whether it’s releases on labels such as Night Slugs, Livity Sound, Hessle Audio and Keysound, or US rapper Danny Brown naming Boy In Da Corner as a major influence, the legacy of grime has never been more visible.

Picking just five tracks for this piece was always going to be an impossible task, but nonetheless here is my limited selection of tracks:

Pulse X – Musical Mob [2002]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bMQTU2iI1E

The first ever grime track? I’ll leave that matter to the historians and the pedants, but regardless of its chronological significance Pulse X perfectly captures the raucous energy of grime.  Unleashing a barrage of snares and bass within the first few seconds, the track’s strength lies in the simplicity of its 16 bar loop. It’s difficult to imagine just how mad this must have sounded when it came out. If this doesn’t get you seriously hyped then I suggest you check your pulse. Pun very much intended.

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Wiley – Eskimo [2002]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkdEOY0bf4U

To be honest, this list could easily consist of just Wiley tracks. But if you have to pick one then it’s got to be Eskimo. The track constructed the template for Wiley’s futuristic Eskibeat sound, the closest thing grime has ever had to a sub-genre.  Aggressive and alien, it is an extremely distinctive style. Once you’ve heard it, you’re unlikely to forget it.

XTC – Functions On The Low [2004] (sometimes credited to Ruff Sqwad)

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHLPU66yLFY

 This track is the perfect counterexample to the lazy generalisation that grime is all about pounding bass, gunshot samples and violent rhythms.  With its irresistibly catchy synth melody, Functions On The Low is heart wrenchingly beautiful and one of the most emotionally affecting grime instrumentals of all time. If you’re a sensitive soul like me and you too enjoy a bit of emosh grime then I would also recommend the instrumental for Wifey by Tinie Tempah and Together by Ruff Sqwad.

 

Silo Pass (Sir Spyro Remix) – Bok Bok [2012]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OPxWd1SCeY

A meeting of the old and the new, a track from a more experimental contemporary grime enthusiast, remixed by a true don of grime.  As well as being a nice illustration of the current renaissance in grime influenced sounds, it doesn’t hurt that the track is also an absolute banger.

TFB – Kowton [2013]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZ4nNImZKV8

Over the last couple of years Kowton has pioneered his own grime/techno hybrid and TFB is a brilliant example of his punishing style. The track shows one of the many interesting directions that grime has taken UK underground electronic music in, and I think we can all agree that it’s a bloody great direction.

If you’re interested in exploring the scene further there are many other producers worth checking out such as Darq E Freaker, Preditah, Faze Miyake, Splurt Diablo, Logos, Bloom, Visionist, Kahn & Neek, Slackk, Wen, Murlo, Samename, Rabit and Mr. Mitch.

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