Son Raw’s been listening since Kano dropped P’s Q’s.
I’m dropping “told you so’s” like crazy right now. I mean, what alternative do I have? I first heard Grime on the Run the Road compilation and started properly writing about it in the aftermath of Dubstep’s American crash-and-burn. To almost every Hip-Hop head’s consternation, I claimed it was the most interesting urban music out there and now you’re telling me Drake’s on Instagram dropping awkward London slang and Kanye’s in the studio with Skepta? To anyone who doubted in the comments 2 years ago, suck ya mum: Grime is officially coming to America.
Thankfully, there’s a definite self-awareness surrounding this wave of attention and everyone involved seems smart enough to look past it. Novelist is already dismissing his Brits award appearance as just another look (and American Hip-Hop as a secondary influence compared to Dancehall), and Boy Better Know’s Skepta, the principle beneficiary of all the attention, may want to crack America, but he knows he doesn’t need to: It’s just a bonus to an already profitable career.
“That’s Not Me” already made a massive impact in England, “It Ain’t Safe” cracked open the doors for NY trendspotters to listen to London accents, and now “Shutdown” brings it all together: The rare tune that’s tough enough for Grime purists yet accessible to outsiders. Drake wants to grab his line? Skepta opens the tune with 6 God’s vine before going into police, politicians, fake rastas and anyone else in his way–all while informing newcomers about the finer points of the reload. Best of all, it’s over an actual Grime beat with zero concessions to American tastes–something that would have been impossible even a year or two ago.
Let’s not get it twisted though: no matter how hot “Shutdown” is, that won’t matter for 95% of the UK scene. For one thing, one artist’s success in the American mainstream doesn’t open doors for his peers anymore. Even supposedly dominant Atlanta splits the stage with acts from L.A., NY, Chicago, Memphis, Houston, Toronto and Miami these days. Likewise, Skepta’s rise might boost JME or Wiley, but the most interesting music happening in London takes place deeper underground. Call me when Kanye draws on Mumdance or Mr.Mitch.
All musings aside, though, “Shutdown” is a banger and whatever may come regarding Grime’s international ascent–It’s gonna be a hot summer.