Son Raw’s January Vocal Grime Wrap Up

Grime's baddest chronicler takes a look at some tracks making noise in the new year.
By    January 20, 2016

president t

I was like, “Son Raw! Everyone knows you got heat!”

2016 has kicked off with a bang with some essential full length projects from veterans and newcomers alike. These are my three favorites so far.

President-T – The Greatest to Ever Touch Down

President-T is the rare emcee on planet Earth who sounds completely, utterly unique. From his voice to his diction to the angular left turns in his thought process, you can’t imagine anyone biting him because who else writes rhymes as if he’s having an imaginary conversation with himself? The Greatest to Ever Touch Down is being promoted as a stop-gap release until his official debut, The Stranger Returns, but for the life of me, it’s as strong a grime tape as you’re likely to hear this year and an excellent entry-point for newcomers who’ve only recently discovered this legend through his Meridian/Bloodline affiliations.

Prez isn’t one for overly fussy production: outside of a few choice Spooky bangers, the beats here mix established grime drum patterns with trap flourishes and a mix of trancy and gauzy synths. That’s all he needs to deliver top notch performances. “Never Had Problems” amps up the drama, “Picture Me Rolling” sounds like an accidental grime/cloud rap fusion, and a new version of his classic “Kill Off Killy” repurposes JME’s classic Skeng beat. All essential, but the tape’s true highlights are “Gunshot Sound” where Prez’ hook twists the English language into unknown shapes, and “When I Came Thru,” a bloodline collaboration showing impeccable chemistry with Dan and Birdie. This probably isn’t the tape to show a hip hop fan to get him onboard with grime, but frankly, Prez-T doesn’t give a monkey’s.


I saw LEVELZ take over two parties last year in England, one in Bristol and one in their hometown of Manchester. Both times, their anything-goes, all-genres-in approach kept the energy levels high and the vibes positive. They stood in complete defiance of London’s cool-hunting and trend-hopping but still managed to leave their mark on almost every style of bass music over the course of the night. It’s an approach they roll with on LVL 11, their free mixtape and an hour long promotional push for the LEVELZ experience. Tackling everything from grime (“Look Who it Is”) to disco and p-funk (“King of the Disco”/”Bow Wow”), to drum ‘n’ bass (“LVL07″/”LVL09”) and hip-hop (“Slow Down,” lots of others), the crew covers a LOT of territory here and listeners are expected to keep up. So what’s the common thread ensuring this all makes sense?

Well, there’s a healthy dose of humor. In a music scene that’s become almost allergic to anything funny except maybe the is-it-or-isn’t-it memeability of a Drake video, LEVELZ dare to avoid the screwfaced tough guy poses de rigueur for emcees of all genres today. They alter between lyrical torrents, old school party rocking and occasionally, straight up laughs. Maybe they’ve got nothing to prove (Manchester, innit?) or maybe they just know it’s a good way to separate themselves from the slew of emcees trying to out badman each other, but it makes for a unique listen that can reach listeners far beyond a grime scene that still sometimes doesn’t seem to know what to make of them.

Say Nothing – Launch Giveaway

2015 saw a whole wave of new grime emcees catching people’s ears, but for the most part, they relied on Radar Radio, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp to make their names, with nary a label in sight. New imprint Say Nothing could be the ones to change this however, and their debut 8-tracker shows significant promise, re-emphasizing grime vocal tracks and the genre’s foundational production. Bravely, the label digs deeper than the expected names to highlight rhymers still making their mark. Rising star Capo Lee is the best known entity here and he continues to build off the success of Liff while proving he’s got one of the best voices in the game. Nico Lindsay’s Miserable is another standout by a newcomer rapidly rising up in the rankings with a conversational flow and more than a hint of menace. Finally, Jay Amo’s Row D takedown may not have been a knock out blow, but it certainly set the stage for AJ dismantling him in one of the more exciting conflicts this war season.

We rely on your support to keep POW alive. Please take a second to donate on Patreon!