Three years ago, grime was dead. Commercialised. Sold out. But at this year’s Reading Festival, the scale of the revitalised scene’s comeback is clear.
Birmingham Grime MC Lady Leshurr (1Xtra Stage, Friday, 12:55) weighed in on why that might be, telling us, “I think there’s belief again, that’s why. I think there was a point that grime was really quiet and there was no one really at the forefront of grime trying to bring it through and keep it alive, and then new artists came along like Stormzy and Skepta, they just came and refreshed the scene again.”
She’s right to mention Stormzy (BBC 1Xtra Stage, Saturday, 22:30, pictured above), whose set was a real highlight of the festival. Introducing himself with a grime medley that looked all the way back to Lethal Bizzle’s ‘Pow 2004’, by the time he started spitting the mosh pits had already opened. The 23 year old Croydon artist was on form, showing everybody exactly why he’s been crowned the new king of grime. It wasn’t all shouting and skanking though: Stormzy also talked about Grime’s origins in East London and took time out to praise the originators of the genre, people like Lethal Bizzle, who inspired him as a kid, the first generation inspiring the second.
Boy Better Know (Main Stage, Friday, 17:45) were also flying the grime flag at Reading, playing one of the sets to remember on the Friday. ‘Calm’ was an explosive opener and pretty soon, with a collective including the likes of Skepta, Jammer and Solo 45, explosive became the norm. Highlights included Jammer’s entrance, swinging a mic in one hand and a champagne bottle in the other, and Solo 45, storming onto stage with calls of “feed em to the lions” booming from the crowd.
But grime’s not all about London – Manchester’s Bugzy Malone (1Xtra Stage, Saturday, 18:00) proves that it’s now a nationwide phenomenon. Playing a set of crowd pleasers, new material and even a song by house producer Ten Walls, Bugzy showed that the north has its voice too.
When grime first lost its way, it was because it had forgotten its heritage. Money and chart success was put above authenticity. But with the rallying call of ‘That’s Not Me’, Skepta gave every act around a manifesto to take the form back to what’s important. Artists are now rooting themselves in the history of the genre but looking forward too, and that’s why grime rules Reading 2016.
Originally published as part of NME/University of Reading’s Reading Festival coverage at: http://readinglive.nme.com/