September 27, 2012

Oh you know Son Raw wasn’t going to let these slip, right?

Repeat after me: Grime is not an album genre. While the most dedicated fans might disagree, the general consensus about Grime is that it’s heyday was an era of pirate broadcasts and 12 inch singles, completely divorced from the album medium. Even mixtapes are a false tradition, borrowed from American artists with different ideas and ideals who unintentionally shifted the balance of power from producers to emcees and helping moving the sound out of the clubs. It’s more than a little ironic then that the past month has seen two sterling, producer-led albums push Grime’s revival to the masses, each reaching new heights in very different ways.

Terror Danjah’s Dark Crawler [Hyperdub] is the more adventurous of the two, as the 10-year veteran explores a number of different tempos and styles while sticking to his dark, neon-streaked aesthetic. Whether grafting his sound to Drum & Bass, UK Funky, shuffling Hip-Hop or R&B, the former-Aftershock producer proves that there’s life outside the 8 bar banger and that there’s room for conceptual weight and variation in a genre once derided as playstation music. In a sly nod to Jamaican riddim tradition (and Lil Waybe’s The Carter IV) for instance, the title track is versioned thrice, with Riko Dan, Trim and Kozzie giving standout performances. That’s the album in a nutshell: structural risks combined with timeless ideas. It’s an approach more producers might consider as the genre continues to evolve.

Royal-T on the other hand, goes straight for the jugular on his debut Rinse LP and it’s impossible to argue with the results. Barely deviating from Grime’s core 140BPM tempo, the album’s 12 tracks bang with an intensity reserved for those with something to prove and the young producer seemingly never runs out of tricks to keep things interesting. There’s peaktime Garage (Inside the Ride), G-Funk (Gully Funk), a Burial-pastiche (Missing Aurora), diva-rave (Work Your Body) and of course, plenty of Grime with emcees P-Money and Merky Ace. As befitting Rinse’s producer showcase format, the entire album is a highlight reel and it feels like the culmination of an era for Royal-T, coinciding with the recent debut of his weekly show on the station to complement Butterz mentors Elijah & Skilliam’s efforts to push the sound. With an energetic style tough enough to please the bros but smart and sexy enough to rope in critics and gyals, it’s hard not to make predictions about how far he’ll go. For now, let’s just say he’s proved that all you need to make a banging Grime album are 12 hot beats and a couple of vocalist. Makes you wonder why it seemed so hard in the first place.